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Initial reactions: Atletico 1 - 1 Real Madrid

A draw in the Calderon. Here's five quick notes.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

This was a grind-it-out match. There were limited chances for both teams. Atletico defended well, and Real Madrid were clinical with one of their very few chances. Real defended well for the most part as well, and Keylor Navas' brilliant save from the spot cancelled out a gift from Sergio Ramos. It wasn't until Arbeloa needlessly gave the ball away under pressure that Real Madrid finally conceded a frustrating equalizer. Frustrating, because this was Real Madrid's game to lose (essentially), and not Atletico's to win.
  1. Casemiro was built for games like this. I was skeptical looking at the starting line-up. If Bale wasn't 100% fit to start, I had envisioned Kovacic slotting in as an extra technically gifted midfielder to control the game alongside Kroos and Modric. Casemiro though, for me, was one of the most impressive players tonight along with Varane. Fearless as always in his challenges, and always was there to help Modric and Kroos when needed - both to cover for them defensively and also distribute the ball to either of them. He did his job sublimely. If you re-watch the match, you will find that Casemiro was nearly always in a triangle with Kroos and Modric both defensively and in attack - he was the anchor. Great decision from Rafa to add the extra muscle against an aggressive opponent.

  2. Benzema. What more can you say about him? He's been an assassin this season.

  3. The central defense was eventful. Varane - as expressed earlier - was a monster; while Sergio Ramos had one of the most ridiculous ten seconds a defender has ever had. Bailed out by the ever-amazing and increasingly popular Keylor Navas.

  4. I long for the day I don't need to write about Marcelo's defensive ineptitudeI wrote about his shortcomings at the back a couple days ago, and those same problems were apparent tonight. In the first half, there was a situation where Atletico were slowly building their attack. It wasn't a counter-attack in the least - slow enough to allow Real Madrid to build their shape as Atletico knocked it around. But Marcelo was in no-man's land as Torres was released through on goal. Real was bailed out by the linesman's flag.

  5. Animo Carvajal. He's been so tremendous in Danilo's absence. Any threat that was present down the right flank died immediately with Carvajal's injury.

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