Atlético Madrid 1-1 Real Madrid (Benzema). An entertaining Madrid-derby! Here is my immediate reaction. Incoming derby-day content: Player ratings, press conference extracts, and the podcast.
For almost the entire league campaign now, Atlético have been soaring ahead in the title race. In recent weeks, a huge drop in form allowed both Real and Barcelona to sneak back into it slightly, taking a deficit of double figures down to as low as three points. However, Real Madrid have suffered from a lack of form themselves - and look unable to take advantage of the miraculous opportunity given to them. In fact, if today’s result was not a good one, then that ten point deficit would be restored and the league would once again be beyond reach, and this time I don’t think Atlético would stumble again. Los Blancos did however have a stronger line-up available for the first time in weeks, with only Lucas Vázquez playing out of position in a 4-3-3 shape. The bench had also been replenished, with only two Castilla players making the cut: Diego Altube and Hugo Duro.
✅ Our starting XI @atletienglish!— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) March 7, 2021
© @Benzema#AtletiRealMadrid pic.twitter.com/654mZIFReQ
Atlético were flying high last time these two sides met, but seemingly vanished on the day - allowing Real to walk away unchallenged with a 2-0 victory. It would have always been surprising for that to occur twice, but the first half today turned out to be the complete opposite. Real Madrid needed to win this game, but it was Atlético that looked like the team with something to prove, pushing the visitors back, pressing high and dominating play. They took the lead within 15 minutes, as Trippier picked out Castilla graduate Marcos Llorente in the midfield - who skinned Nacho and set up Luis Suárez to finish divinely with the outside of his boot. The home side continued to control the game, and it became evident that the thoroughly revised game plan implemented from Simeone’s men was going to cause carnage to a Real Madrid side with little ideas and players rushed back in. The only chances Zidane’s side created came from two wayward Benzema headers and a Casemiro long shot which was spurned wide. They did have a penalty shout when the ball struck Felipe’s arm in the area, but after consulting VAR the referee decided against it. The far stronger Atlético Madrid went into half time 1-0 up, and Real Madrid had it all to do to save their league season.
This technique from Suarez though pic.twitter.com/YjKeoWFttr— Goal (@goal) March 7, 2021
Los Blancos reacted well at the start of the second half, enjoying more of the ball and creating an early chance for Vázquez to have a pop. Courtois was then required to keep the game alive, denying big chances from Carrasco and Suárez, before a rebound went over the bar. Carrasco was giving Vázquez a torrid time in the first half, but Lucas managed to get forward more in the second period to provide crosses into the box, although to little effect. Valverde and Vinícius Júnior replaced Rodrygo and Asensio to modify the formation, but Atlético continued to manage the game easily. Benzema blasted another half-chance over the bar, and not long later managed to miss three huge chances in one sequence. Oblak did well right in-front of goal, but Karim just had to score one of those, despite his recent inactivity. Pretty much every chance had come through Karim Benzema, so it was always going to come from him if Madrid somehow found an equaliser. And so it did. Some good play between Casemiro and Karim allowed Real to slice through the opposition defence before the Frenchman slotted into an empty net. All of this after Atlético had a big chance to make it two. Luka Modrić then shot over from a free-kick, but there was little time left for either team to net a shock winner. The enticing display ended 1-1, with the points shared...
Real Madrid find a late equaliser!— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) March 7, 2021
Brilliant from Benzema and Casemiro, and the No. 9 applies the finish ⚪ pic.twitter.com/4kiN1m6bDz
We have all lived through some tough derby-day games as Madridistas, but I struggle to recall any in which Atlético genuinely dominated. Today they did. Yet somehow they managed to claw out something out of nothing to claim a huge point. The league still looks to be running away from Real Madrid, but perhaps not every flicker of hope has blown away... It will take another slight drop in form from both Atlético and Barcelona, but anything remains possible. Reflecting on the performance and the way both teams entered this game, as well as the importance of the result - I think Madrid fans will be happy about the way it concluded. However, a win was still vital and Real Madrid failed to achieve that, meaning that matters are out of their hands and they have to rely on others to fall in order to have another chance. What did you guys think about the derby?