Real Madrid’s First Goal Changed Everything
The match started off in much the way I expected, with Atlético Madrid pressing high and making life extremely difficult for Real Madrid. Within the first few seconds of the game they fouled Casemiro, and then only minutes later did the same to Pepe. In addition to this intensity, their pressing traps were spot on, with Atlético’s players diverting the ball where they pleased, thus stifling Real’s build-up play.
Atlético created a good chance from all of this pressure, crossing a ball to Koke in the 5th minute, who botched a clear attempt at goal. But a brilliant Gareth Bale run gave Real Madrid some relief. Soon after, his dipping and swerving free kick, which Casemiro nearly diverted past Oblak, gave Real Madrid a superb jolt up the spine. Atlético still pressed well, but Real Madrid managed to bypass their own midfield with long balls from Pepe, and eventually they grabbed a free kick situation with Toni Kroos standing over the ball. Perhaps taking notes from Guardiola, Zidane set-up this offensive set-piece so that Bale was on the fringes of the box and away from goal. While this meant he couldn’t score, it also meant that he created an offensive mismatch against a much weaker player in the air. Taking full advantage, Bale provided a beautiful flick-on for Sergio Ramos to tap home.
From then on, Los Colchoneros were severely rattled. Their defensive structure fell apart, allowing the likes of Luka Modric to easily carve out spaces in behind the frantic Mattress Makers. In addition, Zidane simultaneously asked his side to shrink back into a defensive shape. This didn’t allow Atlético to press Casemiro, as they were forced to keep the ball work it towards goal slowly. Whether it was the nerves or the fact that Atlético were just not focused after conceding, their build-up on the ball was terrible, allowing Casemiro to thrive in his destroyer role.
Additionally, Zidane threw in the occasional counterpress, requesting his players to press Atléti high up the pitch when they lost the ball on the flanks. This press only lasted for 3-4 seconds, rarely allowing Real to win the ball. But the simple act of pressing right after the ball was lost, served to disrupt Atléti’s rhythm and put them out of commission for the first half.
Sergio Ramos spoke about this match on Real Madrid TV today:
“We’re a side that knows its strengths and we’d been working on how to do damage through set pieces for a long time. We’ve got some great headerers of the ball and knew that could work to our advantage. On the goal that made it 1-0, I managed to just get my toe on to the ball to score the goal”.
Spot-kick in the decisive moment
“Taking a Panenka-style penalty is a marvellous way to take one when it comes to taking on that risk, but only when people think that you’re not going to do it. Oblak and I had a history and we knew each other well and it wasn’t the ideal time to do it. The ball ultimately ended up in the back of the net, which was the main thing”.
Rivalry and fair play
“I didn’t speak to any of the Atlético players that I know from the Spanish national team before the game, the likes of Juanfran, Koke and Fernando Torres. We were all really focused and there was no time to speak to each other because there was a lot at stake. After the game, I went to speak to all of their team and offered them words of encouragement, particularly Juanfran. When you miss a penalty, you have to become strong and overcome these kinds of things that football throws your way. You’ve got to show that fair play with your teammates and help each other out at such times”.
Where were you when this happened?