Tonight’s Madrid Derby at the Wanda ends 0 - 0. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.
It was cagey — a battle in midfield with limited opportunities. Both teams looked to catch each other on the flanks. Both teams had long stretches of possession without piercing their opponent. Both teams had clumsy touches in midfield and tremendous off-ball efforts to recover possession. Jan Oblak went into alien-mode.
In some ways, it was a prototypical derby — full of tension and small margin of error.
Real Madrid, perhaps most importantly, continued their solid defensive shape for a third consecutive game. Even despite Carvajal and Nacho spending more time up the pitch than I initially expected, the team’s transition defense was good. Some of that was down to poor touches in midfield and attack from Koke, Vitolo, and Diego Costa — allowing Zidane’s men to recover. Also a huge factor: Fede, and Casemiro were relentless with their hounding in midfield, and Kroos was brilliant all game — his distribution was near-perfect, his tracking was impressive, and his long distance shooting in the first half was a rare source of attack.
The attack itself was a bit laborious. There were a few factors in this, but namely: Bale’s shooting was off despite getting himself into good positions, and both Lodi and Gimenez defended that flank well. Hazard on the opposite flank, was leg-heavy, despite working hard all game and even helping Nacho defensively on Trippier overloads on a few occassions. In the second half, he even got the ball in an ideal spot to carry the ball on the counter-attack — but his engine just died and he lost possession. Valverde worked hard, but despite releasing Hazard on a really nice through ball down the flank in the first half, gave the ball a few times which either led to an attack that collapsed, or a break for Atleti.
It didn’t help also that Varane’s passing was abnormally off in the build-up phase, and Courtois — well Courtois was wildly off the mark with his distribution.
Both teams had their chances though, with Real Madrid having two notable shots — a Kroos one-timed hit outside the box, and a Karim Benzema header — which Oblak freakishly saved. Bale also had a great chance inside the box, unmarked at the far post, but blazed his shot over the bar. Outside of those chances, it was hard to find anything clear-cut, especially with the limited transition opportunities.
In the second half, Luka Modric came in for Valverde; while James came in for Hazard. Modric immediately brought some energy with off-ball runs in the right half space which caused Atleti some problems. Bale swapped to the left, with James staying on the right. It should be noted that by that point, Atleti’s left-back was a makeshift Saul. But neither Bale nor James could really exploit Saul or Trippier on the flanks.
A goalless draw away at the Wanda is fine, even if not ideal. We’ll break this down further in the coming hours, including a post-game podcast from the stadium shortly.