Here are five things we noted from today's official title-ending result...
- Atletico Madrid just pushed out one of the best defensive performances we've seen from a team. Truly.
We can criticize Real Madrid, it's players, coaches, and board as much as we want, but there has to be some level of appreciation of the fact that going up against a defense like this is uber-difficult, and it requires something truly special / lucky to break it down.
Even when Atletico looked like they had opened up and Zidane's men had a chance to break, Atletico's shape was retained so quickly to snuff out the attack.
- Injuries have really annihilated this team in the past two seasons.
The result was 1-0 to Atletico, and Real Madrid were trying to come back with a trio of Ronaldo-Mayoral-Jese. That's never an ideal situation. While Danilo played well, Marcelo's creativity and incisive dribbling was truly missed. Mayoral's fight was refreshing today, but if Benzema's injury is serious, this could really affect Real Madrid's European fight.
None of these injuries, it can be argued, were the reason Real Madrid lost today, but they certainly aren't helping a situation that's spiraling.
- On a similar note, not that it should be used as an excuse, but Atletico caught two huge breaks today when Diego Godin wasn't shown a direct red for fouling Karim Benzema as the last man, and a clear foul on Danilo inside the box wasn't called.
- For a team that barely scores goals, Atletico is so efficient. They didn't have many chances tonight, but they took the most important one. It's hard to blame the defensive lapse on one person, but Varane absolutely should have stepped up to cover Griezmann on the goal.
Toni Kroos, I thought, was pretty solid overall for the amount of covering and passing he had to do, but there was one instance where Atletico had a rare chance on goal in the first half, and it stemmed from Kroos dashing forward unnecessarily without the ball to press high ahead of Benzema. He then jogged back and failed to cover the run behind the midfield.
- It's hard to blame anyone in particular in attack as it was collectively difficult to break down Atletico's defense, but I have to say that James was quite poor with his decision-making, while Modric and Isco worked pretty hard to pass their way around in build-up play. Cristiano was also working hard and creating chances, but there's only so much he could do. Real Madrid just still hasn't found a way to combat Atletico's style play in the past few seasons. It's baffling that a solution hasn't been found. Atletico is a tough match-up, but Real Madrid haven't learned from the little success they have against them, and it usually comes from pressing them high and playing ultra aggressive.
It's time to focus 100% on Europe now.