Last weekend was derby weekend for Real Madrid as both the senior and reserve side took on their cross city rivals on Saturday and Sunday respectively. The seniors were able to get the job done on Saturday and extend their unbeaten streak against Atleti to seven matches and put talk of crisis far in their back mirror after back-to-back good performances.
Castilla, on the other hand, were arguably still in the depth of theirs heading to the Espino del Cerro early Sunday morning. They had won just two of their last five matches and a late 2-2 draw last weekend to Internacional Madrid had thrown their promotion hopes up in the air. A win was essential for the reserves to avoid dragging themselves into a relegation battle, however unlike the A-team, Castilla have been easily second best in the mini-derby over recent meetings.
Heading into this game, Castilla hadn’t won any of the last five derbies and won just two away trips to Atleti B since 2000 (the last coming in 2011). Fortunately for Raul’s side, Atletico Madrid B have been awful this season, with just a single win in their first five matches of 2020-21. Generally form doesn’t play much of a role in these grudge matches, however across the 90 minutes on Sunday, it was quite apparent why last season’s runner ups were so low down the table. The hosts were brutal on the ball and, under Castilla’s high press, regularly gave up possession in their own half.
The good start was rewarded with a goal from a free kick 22 minutes in, Sergio Arribas finding the head of Mario Gila at the far post.
It might seem unfair to generalize, however, following the goal this game followed a familiar pattern that all of Castilla’s game have followed this season. Raul’s team could have killed the game off in the first half, but failed to do so. Atleti began to take control in the second half as Castilla, for no real reason, ceded control of the game and opted to play on the counter from the 60th minute onward. This strategy has cost Castilla games all season this year, however, thanks to Atleti being bad, it actually created some good breaks in which Castilla found interesting new ways not to score a goal.
Nonetheless, as the game reached the closing minutes, Atleti had failed to create any real danger and it seemed Castilla were going to get away with a big win off a rather average performance. Then, Atleti finally created a flurry of good openings, the first requiring Victor Chust to clear the ball off the line and the second one forcing an inexplicable hand-ball and winning a penalty which the hosts converted.
Castilla had three minutes of additional time to drag back a win and given how they had performed in the second half of this game (and across the season so far), it was hard to see where they could go to find that extra gear. A lumped ball from kick off was brought down on the right and play was quickly switched to the other side. Not unlike their senior counterparts, Atleti B have been stubborn defensively in the Madrid derbies I have seen so far so to see them lose succesive games of head-tennis which allowed Arribas into the box was a surprise. To see the Atleti defender then practically hand the Spanish midfielder the excuse to go the ground inside with a wild head/leg challenge combo in the area was baffling.
Arribas has struggled at Castilla so far, he’s been starved of possession and space in midfield and his small frame has struggled to cope with the physicality of Segunda B football. The derby was undoubtedly his best game so far, filled with pieces of creative genius that made Arribas such an exciting talent last season. On the back of a Champions League debut as well as his performances on Sunday, there was little doubt that the diminutive midfielder would find the net from the spot in the fifth minute of four minutes of additional time.
Coupled with Atletico Baleares defeat to Poblense and Navalcarnero draw to Inernacional, the table at the end of 2020 makes for more positive reading than it did last week. Castilla are just a point off the third promotion spot and are now clear of any relegation trouble for now. Atletico Madrid B, on the other hand, are in deep in trouble sitting bottom of the group.
El Castilla despide el año a un punto del objetivo y se aleja de los puestos bajos de la tabla, hundiendo al Atleti B. pic.twitter.com/Ri5hPpeNf1— RM Fabrica (@RMFabrica) December 13, 2020
Given the injury troubles Castilla have had to start the season, one could be rightfully pleased at where the reserves have finished 2020 and the performances of the likes of Arribas, Gila, Retu and others are encouraging going forward.
On the other hand, systematic issues persist despite several teams punishing Castilla for those issues so far. For how bad they were on the ball, Atleti found it quite easy to play through Castilla in the second half. In the absence of a vicious press, this team is very vulnerable and, as I have said on several occasions this year, its completely unnecessary as Castilla should have one of the best ball holding midfield in the group. Its up to Raul to remedy these issues and perhaps and one hopes with a full strength squad he’ll be able to do so.