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Atletico Madrid 2 - 2 Real Madrid: Fortunate Madrid Salvage The Draw Through Cristiano Ronaldo

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A poor performance from Madrid, but enough for a draw across town at Atletico Madrid as Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Real Madrid.

More football and fewer antics next time, please
More football and fewer antics next time, please
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

Line-ups

Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe; Mario, Gabi; Arda Turan, Raúl García, Koke; Diego Costa

Real Madrid: Diego López, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrão, Di María, Xabi Alonso, Modric, Cristiano, Benzema, Bale.

The First Half

From Real Madrid's perspective the game could not have started more auspiciously. Off Angel di Maria's cross, Karim Benzema scored the first goal within two minutes and initially, at least, Madrid seemed to be on the front foot.

In the 28th minute however, Jorge Koke scored Atletico's first, arguably against the run of play. Arda Turan found his teammate with a pass, Koke skipped past Fabio Coentrao and scored through the legs of Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, past Diego Lopez.

In what has become typical fashion for a Madrid derby, the game quickly descended into an ugly match. Atletico could have had a penalty when Sergio Ramos tripped Diego Costa, and Pepe was booked after provoking a foul but then going down pretending to have been struck in the face. These distractions were a waste of energy and no help to Madrid, and they conceded a wonder strike from 40 yards out to Gabi - one of the goals of the season.

Madrid went into the break 2-1 down.

The Second Half

Atletico were the brighter team in the second half - most especially before the hour mark. Their poor finishing spared a Real Madrid that looked to be out of ideas. Fabio Coentrao, who had a torrid game and appears to have chosen his cleats badly, was pulled for Marcelo by Carlo Ancelotti in an apparent attempt to improve both the attack and defence along Madrid's left. Shortly thereafter, Dani Carvajal replaced Alvaro Arbeloa, who had been booked for a barge on Diego Costa.

These changes showed a marked improvement in Madrid's attack and the goal, when it came, came through Cristiano Ronaldo. Anonymous for most of the game, he appeared when it mattered most and scored his goal, after Atletico failed to clear Carvajal's cross, in the 83rd minute.

Atletico Madrid 2 - 2 Real Madrid

Notes & Gripes

It would be nice to find a refereeing error to soothe the poisonous irritation one feels after a match like this against Madrid's version of the noisy neighbours. Unfortunately, on balance, only Atletico Madrid fans have any real quarrel with him. They should have had a penalty when Ramos tripped up Diego Costa. It was not a vintage officiating performance, but that's mainly on the players.

Fabio Coentrao is a fine player. A very good player. But Marcelo is this writer's pick in the big games, not least because he appears to be better at picking out his cleats in damp weather. Bizarre Internet memes aside, there's really nothing to choose between them defensively, and Marcelo is markedly better in the attack. Carlo Ancelotti's first substitution on the hour mark (of Coentrao for Marcelo) could not have come a minute too soon.

Karim Benzema has quietly become Madrid's player of the season. Inventive, dangerous in front of goal, always in the right place, playing with intelligence and guile and providing some balance in the attacking third. Under absurd pressure from impatient and not particularly observant fans at the beginning of the season, he was the only member of the BBC to make any noticeable contribution until Cristiano Ronaldo scored his goal. He had the best chance of the second for Real Madrid, and was, in a bad night for the BBC trio in general, the only player who played well.

Something about Atletico brings out the worst in Madrid's players. Last time it was Alvaro Arbeloa disgracing himself by deliberately trying to injure Diego Costa. On a night when the Academy Awards are to be handed out, Pepe decided to do an homage to Lionel Messi's "I ran into a player's [insert body part]" before going down like he'd been shot. Quite aside from being embarassing, it left Madrid with a player in a vital position on a yellow card early in the match - something that began to show in the second half as he shied away from challenges.

Madrid have the advantage heading into the final games of the season, but Atletico Madrid have the head-to-head advantage on goal-difference.