Our match review on El Derbi. For further reading, check our immediate reaction and player ratings. Still to come: tonight’s post-game podcast, as well as an episode of ‘Churros y Tácticas’ tomorrow with a couple of Atleti journalists in Robbie Dunne and Jeremy Beren.
Last night, 2nd place Barcelona were beaten by Malaga 2-0. So what that means is, had Real Madrid managed to protect their lead, they would have been up, up and away by 5 points. But, instead they had to settle for a draw and are up by 3 points instead of 5.
Real Madrid went to war with the Mister’s favourite playing XI. Fielding in a 4-3-3 formation, Real Madrid’s first scare of the match came as early as the 3rd minute in the form of Koke, whose whipped ball in the box found Saul, only to go past the goal without bothering Navas.
Early in the match Real seemed to enjoy more possession, with Atletico trying to catch them on the break. In the 15th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo let go a power-packed shot which burned Jan Oblak’s hands.
Pepe played a magical ball which found Benzema, who exchanged passes with Ronaldo to ultimately draw a superb save by Oblak. Benzema’s superb twist and turn in that play earned him a comparison with a ‘drunk snake’ by Ray Hudson.
The beautiful link-up play between Ronaldo and Benzema was absolutely delightful. Benzema shot well but with Atletico’s defense creeping up on him, he had to shoot at sight and just couldn’t find the gap between Oblak and the goalpost.
The 31st minute mark saw Modric bursting forward and finding Ronaldo, who drove a missile past Oblak, only for Savic to make a goal-line clearance. Ronaldo couldn’t believe it, the Bernabeu could not believe it, and fans watching on TV and on illegal streams could not believe it.
Apart from Bale’s headed effort towards goal from Marcelo’s cross , the Welshman was sadly mostly absent today, especially in the final third. He hasn’t been able to hit top gear since returning from injury.
Casemiro, for all his talent in the world, should really get a grip and not get booked in almost every match.
The first half was all Real Madrid — Diego Simeone and his team were hanging on by a thread. They were extremely lucky to have not conceded and of course Jan Oblak exchanging places with Superman also helped.
As the half-hour approached, so did Real Madrid’s weird trademark phase of being clumsy and slipping up — something that we witness almost every match after the half-hour mark. They either drop intensity or momentum — or sometimes both.
It was around the 38th minute, when Sergio Ramos almost gifted a goal to the evil Madrid when his misplaced pass found the legs of Griezmann who raced towards Keylor Navas’ goal to deal Real Madrid some serious damage. However, Real Madrid veteran Pepe just did enough to force Greizmann to shoot from a distance or risk being dispossessed by the Portuguese. A diving Navas does really well to save the game and Ramos’ blushes, while ensuring that the ball was out for a corner.
The first half folded with Atletico gaining some ground but neither side unable to get on the scoresheet.
Almost immediately after the second half started, Zidane’s side had a good opportunity to score in the form of Marcelo’s pinpoint cross which found Ronaldo, only for the Portuguese to head it wide. Ronaldo has got to be scoring those. His leap was spectacular but alas his effort could not be on goal.
Ronlado got a similar chance to right his wrongs, this time from a cross from Carvajal where Ronaldo was unchallenged for his header. It looked like he went for the goal initially but replays suggested he was trying to square it to the oncoming Benzema, who shot it straight at Oblak’s chest.
A few moments later, we got to witness a scene that we witnessed several times this season. Tony Kross delivering a picture-perfect deadball and a CB heading it inside the net. Only this time it was Keplar Pepe, instead of our resident saviour who made it 1-0. Oblak was finally beaten. Tony Kroos has 8 assists from deadballs now this season. Remarkable.
Just moments later, Atletico had the opportunity to equalize when Griezmann superbly dribbled past Casemiro and released Torres, who went through, one on one with Keylor Navas, but the Costa Rican made no mistake in stopping Torres’ shot.
Around the 62nd minute, Kroos and Pepe were involved in a freak accident in which, Kroos while fighting for the ball came in contact with Pepe ‘knee-first’ — breaking Pepe’s ribs and effectively ending his Real Madrid season and quite possibly his Real Madrid career.
Navas was spectacular in saving an overhead volley by Griezmann. The offside flag might have been raised, but there was no denying that was a solid save from a solid shot.
Very little of Bale in the second half as well. He is somehow unable to get his rhythm back after returning from injury.
Ultimately it was Greizmann and Correa who worked well to create a goal from nothing catching the entire Real Madrid XI by surprise to equalize and break the hearts of Madridistas. The score did not change and Griezmann’s goal forced both Madrid clubs to share points from the Derby.
- Keylor Navas did very well tonight. He needs to put up performances like this against Bayern Munich if Madrid want a realistic chance at beating them.
- Carvajal and Marcelo both are capable of providing pinpoint crosses and our forwards really need to make the most of it more times than they do. Some of the most accurate crosses go begging which do affect the end results.
- With a heavy heart, I must admit Gareth Bale has been poor as of late. Far from the standards that he has made us familiar with.
- Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t necessarily poor. He was unlucky at times. There were also opportunities that the old Ronaldo we knew would have buried with his eyes closed.
- Pepe’s and Varane’s unavailability might just define our season (not in a good way).
- Pepe’s freak accident looked brutal. Prayers with him. The Real Madrid veteran might as well have played his last match, last night.
- Sergio Ramos is of course one of the finest CBs to walk this planet. However, his misplaced pass could have allowed Griezmann to score. I remember his misplaced pass did lead to Deportivo’s goal in December. Yes, I am aware he scored to save us. The point is he perhaps needs to be more alert. It is hard to imagine a team like Bayern not punishing Madrid for a error like that
- Just like Ronaldo, Karim Benzema wasn’t terrible, but he needs to bury those chances that his teammates create for him.