Florentino Pérez, Rodrygo, and Militão were in the stands to watch this historic Madrid derby, but had to oversee a tough loss 1-0. Below are my immediate thoughts. Player ratings and post-match pod to follow.
- Atlético Madrid dominated the flow of the first half thanks to their 4-4-2 wing-oriented high press. For whatever reason, Real Madrid consistently decided to play out from the back down their relatively weaker (ball progression-wise) left-hand side, with Babett Peter, Marta Corredera, and Thaisa forming the first triangle. Castellanos/Ludmila, Meseguer, and Sampedro ate the opposing trio alive, hounding every touch in coordination — safe in the knowledge that every other option behind them would be shut off. The personnel selection may have been problematic, but Real Madrid’s collective mechanics vs. coherent pressing has been an issue all season — even in victories.
- Real conceded from a corner in the 5th minute. Ivana Andrés missed an interception and Asllani was weak to challenge Laia Alexandri, though their might’ve been a handball. Alexandri’s strike fell to center back Merel van Dongen, who dispatched a close range shot. All-in-all, a poor defensive sequence regardless of whether there was some fortune on Atléti’s part or not.
- The one bright spot was Real Madrid’s open play defending. Aside from a long distance effort that forced a brilliant save from Misa and a couple decent box entries, Atléti didn’t get a sniff from their possession game. Asllani and Kaci were disciplined in rotating to and from the ball side center back and central midfielder, while the relevant winger and fullback duo stuck tight to their counterparts. Meseguer ended up moving wide into the halfspace like an advanced RCB to get Asllani or Kaci off her back, but it did little to effect the product in the final third, though circulation got a little easier.
- Late in the 1st half, Jakobsson got free down the left in a rare moment and put in a cross that seemed to bounce off the defender’s foot and onto her hand. There were shouts for a penalty but the ref ignored them and waved for play to continue.
- The 2nd period of play mirrored the first: pleas for another penalty in Atléti’s box, high pressing suffocating Madrid’s build-up, and few chances to show for the away side’s dominance aside from a deflected shot that Misa denied spectacularly. Aznar tried to change things up by first bringing on Olga Carmona for Thaisa, briefly making it a 4-4-2 with Jakobsson joining Asllani up top. This was quickly scrapped when Teresa Abelleira came on for Corredera, bringing the formation back to a 4-3-3 and theoretically upgrading the ball playing quality down the left wing massively. Functionally, it didn’t make that much of a difference for most of the half, with Las Colchoneras continuing to stifle the opposition and Madrid playing speculative balls down the wing to an offside Sofia Jakobsson.
- Around the 80th minute, Atléti’s press began to wane and the quality of Madrid’s subs finally started to show. Olga, in particular, began to influence things down the left and Madrid’s final third entries slowly started to creep upwards, leading to some threatening crosses into the box. Aznar tried to capitalize on this by substituting Asllani off for young goal scoring phenom Ariana Arias.
- Madrid had one last chance from a corner that was cleared off the line before play was stopped for a foul by Ivana on the keeper, but Atléti held firm and picked up a crucial victory to close the gap on Las Blancas in the race for the Champions League.