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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 1 - 1 Atletico Madrid

Real Madrid draw Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu, with the same exact scoreline in last year’s derby — one year ago to the day. This season’s La Liga campaign has been one to forget. Onward to Juventus.

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid draw 1-1 at the Bernabeu against Atletico Madrid (Ronaldo; Griezmann). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.


A stereotypical Madrid derby at the Bernabeu — Real Madrid dominating possession in the face of a low defensive block, slinging a flurry of shots, vulnerable on the counter-attack, and both Jan Oblak and Keylor Navas in full God-mode. This was an eventful derby, particularly as the match progressed. It had a ton of talking points, and despite Atletico sitting back as they did, their approach was pragmatic and they threatened enough on the counter-attack to win this match. This was a typical tightly-contested affair, as has generally been the case against Simeone in La Liga at the Bernabeu.

Zidane rolled out a double-pivot of Mateo Kovacic and Toni Kroos, with Lucas Vazquez on the right, and Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio playing interchangeably on the left and central channels. To be sure, Bale played a bit too high at times, though he also did drop deep enough when needed. In a match like this, against an opponent who wouldn’t hedge up to play a high line, Bale can’t play off the shoulders of defenders so much; and with him touching the ball as little as he did — only Keylor had fewer touches in the first half — he was isolated for large stretches.

Some of this was rectified in the second half, where Bale played more on the left flank. That’s where Real Madrid’s goal eventually came from, too -- the Welshman playing a great ball from the left to Ronaldo, who’s brilliant one-touch finish found the back of the net. Shades of Real Madrid’s third goal in the 4-2-3-1 at the Calderon last season — something we’ve been asking for regularly here but haven’t seen much replicated from that scheme since.

The overarching trend of this match was clear — Atletico allow Real Madrid’s full-backs high up the pitch, Real Madrid’s central midfielders push forward to help with the build-up, and both Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane (both with key interventions all game, but also spread thin on the counter-attack, without much fault of their own), snuffed out possession and stepped high to protect counter-attacks anytime Kovacic or Kroos were bypassed. That worked at times (Ramos and Varane combined for six interceptions, and above all, pressured ball-carriers into coughing up possession), and other times they were left alone and the team dodged bullets (Navas again, making brilliant saves to keep Atletico at just one goal).

When Real Madrid conceded shortly after they scored, Ramos had stepped off of Vitolo to close Griezmann, but no one covered for him in the process, leaving Vitolo free to run in the box, while Griezmann slipped in for the rebound after releasing his initial through-ball.

Real Madrid tried their best to grab the winner after that, while keeping Atleti’s counter-attacks in check. But once Gabi came on for Diego Costa, and Simeone summoned his deep barricade, it was hard to break through. On another day, Marcelo’s shot that hits the bar, or any other clear-cut chances through individual brilliance, or otherwise, that Real Madrid had would’ve sufficed. Oblak stepped up though, and, was fantastic in denying some great opportunities that Zidane’s men had.

xG in this one: Real Madrid 2.33; Atletico Madrid 1.31.

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