By Edward Stratmann.

An utterly proud Diego Simeone was quick to lavish praise on all of his players following their magnificent 1-0 derby victory over Real Madrid last weekend.

"The line of four was brilliant. Filipe Luis was amazing. Juanfran closed his wing very well. Augusto and Gabi were two tremendous lungs in the midfield. Big heart from Saul and lots of calmness from Koke. Great character in Griezmann and great enthusiasm and passion from Fernando to run for impossible balls," insisted the overjoyed Argentine manager.

"That led us to have a chance, solve it in the best way and achieve the win."


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He couldn't have been more spot on in his assessment. His team played brilliantly, as they showed that customary togetherness and fighting spirit their disjointed Madrid rivals could only dream of. And one man whose display served as crucial to the result was undoubtedly that of one half of their central midfield lungs, Augusto Fernandez.

The €6.5 million January signing from Celta Vigo, who made such a terrific start to life with the Mattress Makers before suffering a knee injury against Barcelona three weeks ago, picked up where he left off vs. Zinedine Zidane's men, as he perfectly embodied Atleti's relentless, never say die attitude that Simeone has so successfully instilled into his troops.

The grit, physicality, intensity and determination with which he undertook his role ensured Madrid, and particularly Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, were extremely uncomfortable whenever they received possession. From his left sided central midfield position, Fernandez's direct opponent was, more often than not, the wildly gifted maestro, Modric.

Knowing he had to impose himself physically on the Croatian to have any chance of limiting his creative influence, Fernandez did just that, with the 29-year-old effectively pressing and harrying his adversary, making sure to get in his face at every available opportunity.

This disruptive tactic worked wonders, as it never allowed Modric time to settle on the ball and get his side's passing game going, which, in the process, made life extremely difficult for Madrid to get any sort of cohesion between their midfield and attack.

Despite Fernandez's approach being physically geared, the intelligence behind his work deserves special mention, for his excellent capacity to read the play provided a superb platform for him to be able to press his opponents so rapidly and supply an exemplary three tackles and two interceptions.

Moreover, whenever he chose to press high up onto an opponent, crucially, one of his teammates, usually Gabi or Koke, would quickly recognise this and get across to cover the space the former River Plate, Saint Etienne and Velez Sarsfield enforcer had just vacated. Indeed, a perfect example of the sacrificial, team-oriented mentality of Simeone's well-drilled team.

Fernandez was also quick to return the favour, for he constantly covered and dropped back to help his defensive and midfield colleagues whenever they required assistance.

Although he tired towards the end of his time afield, the fact Simeone had the faith and belief in him to immediately reinstate him into his starting lineup following his injury recovery for such a colossal match served as a glowing testament to how important a component of his side Simeone sees the experienced hardman.

Fernandez backed up his outstanding outing with another first-rate showing in Atleti's resounding 3-0 win over Real Sociedad to further emphasis his worth.

Despite missing Atletico's splendid 3-1 win over Valencia through suspension, with a tough upcoming league fixture against Deportivo La Coruna, as well as the second leg of their Champions League tie with PSV Eindhoven, Fernandez's intensity, aggression and unheralded footballing intellect should yet again prove why the club's astute signing of him was such a great piece of business.

Fernandez's move to Atletico also gives him the chance to fulfill his dream of playing in the world's premier club competition, the UEFA Champions League, which he should achieve in their match-up with PSV on Tuesday week.

At 29, it really is fantastic to see the tigerish midfielder finally reaping the rewards for all his hard work. All it took was for Simeone to appreciate and recognise his undeniable quality and how useful that will be to his team. And courtesy of his tremendous performances, he's already repaying his manager's faith suitably.

More fantastic articles at Edward's blog