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Atlético de Madrid - Real Madrid: Los Blancos let Atleti escape (1-1)

Benítez's men dominated most of the game against the worst Atleti in the last three years, but threw it all away in the final minutes.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

A convincing first half, an early goal and a penalty saved did not suffice for Los Blancos to conquer the Calderón against an Atlético de Madrid side that did not look as brilliant as they have in the last few years. Benzema managed to score with a good header after a great cross by Carvajal in the 9th minute, but Luciano Vietto equalized in the 83rd. Los Blancos will have to wait a little longer and, more importantly, improve their game if they want to get the leadership in La Liga table.

The lineups

Atlético de Madrid: Oblak; Juanfran, Godin, Giménez, Filipe Luis; Gabi, Tiago, Óliver Torres (Carrasco, 45'); Correa (Vietto, 58'), Torres (Jackson Martínez, 64').

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal (Arbeloa, 42'), Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Isco (66', Bale); Ronaldo, Benzema (Kovacic, 77').

The first half

The entrance of Casemiro and the presence of an extra midfielder made it very clear that Benítez's aim was to control the tempo of the game and to turn off Atleti's intensity. With very long possessions, Los Blancos kept the ball and avoided taking any risks, while the colchoneros just pursued them. They had had a chance in the second minute, with a header by Cristiano, but they did not seem to be trying to attack very fiercely. It was just a matter of controlling the game, and they seemed to be succeeding.

But it all changed in the ninth minute. Carvajal (who was having an extraordinary performance until he had to leave the field injured) put a great cross into the box to find Benzema alone, as both of Atleti's centerbacks were covering Ronaldo. The Frenchman headed it into the top right corner of Oblak's goal as if it were the easiest thing to do, thus giving Real Madrid an early advantage.

A few quiet minutes followed, as Benítez's men gave up the possession to try to steal and run, but Atlético did not cause any serious trouble until the twenty-first minute, when Sergio Ramos blundered twice in the same action, losing an easy ball first and afterwards, after getting it back and losing it all over again, fouling Tiago inside the box. Griezmann took the steps to shoot the penalty kick and equalize, but Navas had a better idea in his mind. The Costa Rican guessed Griezmann's shot and blocked it brilliantly.

Right after the penalty, it was Atlético who decided to let Real Madrid hold the ball and take the initiative, but Los Blancos, once again, were not willing to take any risk. Atleti's attempts to steal the ball were tougher than they should have been and this resulted in some rough minutes with too many fouls, where some colchoneros could have even been sent off, and which ended with Carvajal leaving the field injured. The only chance Real Madrid had to score before the break was a free-kick shot by Ronaldo from Madeira, which obviously brought no danger to Oblak's goal.

The second half

Perhaps because of the penalty kick, or thinking that Atleti would start to attack more fiercely to equalize, Rafa Benítez decided to definitely retreat to put all his money on the steal-and-run plan. Casemiro, who has probably played his best game for Real Madrid today, was doing a great job both destroying and constructing, but Real Madrid's attackers were not close enough to the midfielders to build any decent counterattack.

Atleti kept pounding and, although their attacks seemed poorer after Vietto took Correa's spot, they rised once again when Jackson Martínez came in for Torres. Simeone smelled the blood in Real Madrid's right wing and directed all of his attacks towards Arbeloa, as the Spartan seemed to be Real Madrid's weakest spot, and there is where the white defence finally got broken.

In the 83rd minute, Jackson Martínez received a ball on the left wing and ran past Arbeloa, who had an advantageous position but not enough pace, and crossed it to the small box. Griezmann gently touched it back with his heel to surpass Navas, and Vietto put it in without opposition.

The Calderón woke up but it was probably too late to get a victory. Real Madrid still had a couple decent chances in counterattacks, but Ronaldo blew them both away, and Navas saved his partners once again with an extraordinary save in the last minute after a long shot by Martínez.

The draw was probably a fair result for this Madrid derby, but all Real Madrid fans must feel we have lost a great chance to bury Atleti and to conquer the leadership in La Liga. The FIFA break that comes now should serve us to recover some key players like Danilo or James, but I will be happy if no one comes injured from the trip with his own National Team. Benítez must use these couple of weeks to think of a way to make the team play better and seize its opportunities.

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