Real Madrid survived crashing waves from Atletico Madrid, who started this match full throttle, scoring two goals in the first 17 minutes (Saul, Greizmann); but they pulled back after that, and Isco scored a goal to end the tie. Here’s our reaction to the match. Still to come: player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast tonight.
It’s confirmed. Juventus in Cardiff on June 3rd. A tough fixture, an incredibly great opponent, and a potential 12th Champions League title a potential reward for hurdling past another difficult obstacle. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there — for now, it’s time to digest a heated game that Real Madrid did well to survive.
As expected, the Vicente Calderon was raucous and frenzied for one last time in the Champions League. Atleti were gung-ho from minute one, pushing Real Madrid beyond it’s comfort zone. Their first goal game in the 12th minute — Saul beating Cristiano Ronaldo to a header from a corner, with no one near-post to give Keylor Navas a hand. Five minutes later, Varane clumsily committed a penalty which Greizmann converted.
Until that point, Real Madrid were kind of just treading water. They had no real control over what was happening, bar some occasional counter-attacks which Atletico fended off. In a weird way, Atletico’s second goal ultimately let Real Madrid breathe more than anything. The question was always going to be ‘how long can Atletico sustain this energy?’ The answer, it turns out, was until they scored their second of the night. Simeone receded the line, opting to play the more conservative brand of football Atletico is known for. Had they kept bullying Real Madrid in the final third, it may well be that they score that third goal. But they didn’t, and by retreating, they let Real Madrid grow into the game and dominate possession.
Luka Modric was unbelievable. If ever I was in a situation of complete turmoil, and could draft one player on the planet to calm things and down bring composure in an impossibly chaotic situation, Modric would be the first person I’d draft. His touches, his non-stop motor without the ball to provide outlets and relieve Real Madrid’s backline from a press, his ability to create from deep — everything he did was outrageously good. Tomorrow’s column will be an ode to him.
Real Madrid were rewarded with their possession towards the end of the first half when Karim Benzema somehow found space on the touchline around three defenders. It was a defining moment.
From there, I wouldn’t say Real Madrid ‘coasted’ by any means, but they had at least sealed the tie. The most noteworthy moments came in the first half. These are the absolute barebones of the match, so don’t get too worked up if we didn’t mention ‘this player or that’ — we’ll break down the rest (tactically, by player, etc), more in the ensuing match coverage tonight.