Real outclass Atletico in Madrid derby
Real Madrid had Cristiano Ronaldo to thank for setting up a reasonably comfortable 2 – 0 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu. It was a night on which Atletico forgot to play football, and resorted to antics which didn’t work well at all and saw them struggle for long stretches. With Barcelona‘s comfy win over Bilbao, the title race now seems even more skewed in favour of the Catalan side.
Perhaps the only question on team selection before the start of the game, it was Ozil who started in the creative playmaker’s space for Real Madrid, ahead of new recruit Luka Modric. It was a bold statement by the visiting manager, Diego Simeone that they started with two up front at the home of Real, with Costa accompanying Falcao in a 4-4-2 formation. The early minutes saw some debatable, albeit minor, decisions by the referee, mostly small fouls which went against the home team, leading the supporters to get on the referee’s back almost instantly. For the visitors, it was Turan who was flagged offside in a wide position, while Real were caught watching the ball, even though the Turkish international seemed to be in line with the Real defence.
It was easy to see the confidence that the visitors brought though, with the game being played mostly in Real’s half, and the first half chance fell to Falcao, who was denied by Casillas, after Costa had gotten the better of Coentrao. Against the run of play, it was the home team that took the lead though, as a foolish handball from Turan earned him a yellow card before Cristiano Ronaldo sunk in a well taken free kick. It was a ball which rose and dip furiously into Courtois’ right hand corner, but the young ‘keeper’s positioning could certainly have been better. It wasn’t long before things started heating up though, with Diego Costa unnecessarily bumping into Pepe and Ramos at every possible opportunity.
The goal gave Real a foothold in the game though, and the skewed possession numbers were soon balanced as Real dominated possession for long periods that followed. They didn’t do much with the ball though, and Courtois had no saves to make till the 36th minute when he had to dive and parry a long range effort from Ronaldo. There was in fact more action off the pitch than on it, as the Atletico bench was seen threatening the Real bench, and had to be calmed down by the fourth official, who then had to take an earful from Mourinho when a throw in was taken yards ahead of the original location by Atletico. The referee was lenient though, and a few tough tackles went unpunished for both teams, who headed into the break at 1 – 0, with a lot to improve on.
The second half saw a more lively start to the game in terms of actual football, with both Courtois and Casillas being pressed into action within the first five minutes. Diego Costa was soon up to no good, with an attempted swipe at Sergio Ramos going unnoticed by the referee, as the striker tread closer and closer to the line between aggression and stupidity. It was Real who had the next attempt on goal, with a Ronaldo free kick from a similar spot to the one that he scored with, but was taken low and well saved by Courtois. Soon after, it was the home team that scored again to double their lead, as Atletico defenders were caught ball watching, allowing Ozil acres of space to finish through Courtois’ legs after he had been picked out by Ronaldo.
This brought a sense of urgency to Atletico’s game, as they looked to create their first real chance of the game. Yet another foul, this time on the edge of the box by Miranda gave Ronaldo another opportunity with a free kick, and the Portuguese star beat Courtois easily, only to be denied by the woodwork, as his attempt bounced back off the cross bar. There was yet more agony for Ronaldo just a couple of minutes later, as a ball across the box from Ozil was well met by Ronaldo, only to see it crash against the post this time, after the ball had flown past the advancing Courtois. That was to be the last real piece of action for the fixture, as Atletico finished the game with barely a chance created, and a six point deficit to Barcelona, while Real cut the gap between the two teams to five points.