Monday, December 10, 2018

Atletico Madrid 0-0 Real Madrid: Five things we learned as Barcelona were the only winners on the night

Benjamin Darvill in Editorial, La Liga 18 Nov 2017

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Atletico Madrid playing Real Madrid is one of the most hotly anticipated games in world football, with so many matches going down in history for their goals and exciting play. However, this one doesn’t come anywhere near the tag of a ‘classic’, in fact, it probably won’t feature heavily on either team’s end of season DVD’s.

Chances were few and far between, with the opportunities both sides had being spurned. Angel Correa was put in on goal after just two minutes but he dragged his shot wide, while Toni Kroos displayed why he plays in deep midfield as he failed to make the most of a chance inside the box.

Real Madrid dominated for swathes of the second-half, but Atleti stood strong. Kevin Gameiro came on and saw his chipped effort headed off the line, while Cristiano Ronaldo took too long with two chances you would back him to bury. In the end, a point each was fair, but it was not what either side wanted, with Barcelona now 10 points ahead of both teams.

From the dull draw, what five things did we learn?

It’s all huff and puff in the first-half

A derby game tends to go one of two ways, it is either a rip-roaring game in which goals, excitement and cards are plentiful, or it becomes a cat and mouse game in which there are few chances with both defences on top. Unfortunately for the viewers, the first 45 fell under the umbrella of the latter, with a contest that was rather drab considering the quality of the two teams.

Of course, the fans were thinking that they were in for a hugely entertaining game with a huge chance after just two minutes. Atletico’s Angel Correa was gifted the ball by Raphael Varane on the edge of the box which set him up for a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Instead of keeping his cool though, he screwed his shot wide to the disbelief of his teammates and the fans. Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos was also given a sight of goal after playing a neat one-two with Cristiano Ronaldo, only to hit the side netting.

Other than that, the chances were at a premium in the first 45. The whole half proved just how important an intelligent final ball is against a side that is sitting very deep, and for a team that sees a lot of ‘chances’ come in the form of a two versus four situations. The fact that very few of the players could play these final balls accurately meant that possession was squandered often, while inaccurate long-shots were the order of the day.

Ultimately, it was a lesson in how not to pass in key areas, with both sets of players guilty of spurning a number of promising positions.

What’s a derby without a few knocks?

While the first-half did not bring the all-out action play many had hoped for, it did see plenty of big challenges, most notably from the home side. Indeed, Atleti put in a number of very physical challenges that had many fans wincing once they had seen the replays.

First of all, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema was bundled to the ground before Correa blasted the ball at the head of the striker after the whistle had gone. It was hardly the most sportsmanlike thing to do, but the frustrations of the two sets of players has always been something that tends to boil over physically in this sort of game. Cristiano Ronaldo then stumbled into a flying defender and stayed down, although neither were really at fault for the challenge in the end.

Perhaps the worst of the challenges was one that was not meant to be a tackle. Lucas Hernandez was marking Sergio Ramos from a cross following a corner, and with the Real captain looking to head the ball, Lucas volleyed the defender in the face, although he had been looking to play the ball. Ramos required treatment, and despite being patched up and making it to half-time, he was replaced at the break.

The robust tackles that were flying in is part and parcel of a derby game, but should the referee have gotten his yellow card out more? Perhaps Atleti were allowed to put in a number of strong challenges as the referee looked to keep his cards in his pocket, with predecessors all too often showing the cards too early, which means a few powerful challenges can turn into a badly tempered game that sees a number of red cards. Credit to the referee for looking to let the game flow, although the second-half saw more challenges, and a flurry of cards.

Barcelona the only winners on the night 

The viewers, the players and the managers were the losers on the night as an insipid game did not ever really threaten goals. The fans were not treated to the outstanding attacking spectacle that many had hoped they would see, both sets of players conceded even more ground on Barcelona, and the managers were left to lament poor performances across the park, with both defences well and truly on top.

Atleti and Real started the game 10 points behind Barcelona and that is where they stayed. While La Liga is usually touted as the league with the most competitive top three in the world, this has been anything but the case this season. Barcelona are cruising at the top, while the sides from Madrid have looked well off the pace, with their drab 0-0 draw showcasing this, as both sides desperately needed to win.

With Barcelona 10 points ahead, both teams will have to hope that Real Madrid can beat Barcelona in their two league meetings, with Atleti winning their remaining game against them too. A win for either of the sides on Saturday could have been massive as second-placed Valencia play the leaders next, and they look the most likely to take points off Barca.

With both sides trying to avoid losing, neither ever threatened to win the game

Both Madrid sides are heavyweights of the world stage and they know exactly what it is like to play in the highest pressure games. Indeed, the two clubs have played in Champions League finals together, with Europe’s premier competition the pinnacle for many players. However, Atleti’s game with Real became a chess match, with both petrified of losing.

Both teams are so often associated with passionate play, with Real synonymous with attacking flair, while Atleti are fiercely competitive, and able to turn defence into attack in a heartbeat. However, whether it was the way both teams were set up, or the fact there was massive pressure on the two sides  following Barcelona’s win, the two Madrids looked terrified of losing the game, with the goalless outcome coming after a match of very few chances.

Ultimately, the fact both were desperate not to lose meant that neither ever really looked like winning the contest, and they seem to have almost completely handed Barcelona the league crown, as the Catalan club do not look like they will give up a 10 point lead.

Ronaldo and Gameiro spurn their his big chances 

On a night that begged for composure in front of goal, the shooting ability of so many players deserted them. Correa managed to waste a one-on-one chance in the second minute, while Kroos was unable to take advantage of a quick one-two with Ronaldo. However, it was left to both Kevin Gameiro and Cristiano Ronaldo to spurn chances as the game began to wind down.

Gameiro was put through on goal and he cleverly chipped the ball over the Real goalkeeper, but he did not put enough on the ball as Raphael Varane was able to get back and head the ball off the line. While the finish was a good effort, should the striker have tried to drive the ball into the back of the net instead, as it was always going to be a tough ask to evade the goalkeeper and the four back-tracking defenders?

For Ronaldo, it was uncharacteristically poor touches and slow reactions that stopped his chances in their tracks. Indeed, his biggest chance came in the dying embers of the game as he took a good touch in the box, but seemed to take an eternity to shoot, allowing Lucas to fly across and make the block. While there were few clear-cut chances, it would be incorrect to say that neither side could have won it. In the end, woeful finishing has seen both sides fall even further behind Barcelona at the top.

Atletico Madrid: Oblak 6 – Juanfran 7, Godin 7.5, Savic 7.5, Lucas 7.5 – Saul 6, Thomas 6 (Carrasco 6.5), Gabi 6, Koke 6 – Correa 4 (Gameiro 5), Griezmann 5 (Torres 5).

Unused subs: Moya, Luis, Gimenez, Gaitan.

Real Madrid: Casilla 6 – Carvajal 7, Varane 7.5, Ramos 7 (Nacho 7), Marcelo 7 – Casemiro 7.5, Kroos 7, Modric 7 – Isco 6, Benzema 4 (Asensio 6), Ronaldo 5.

Unused subs: Moha, Theo, Nacho, Lucas, Mayoral, Ceballos.

Referee: Fernandez Borbalan


Benjamin Darvill

Ben is an English and creative writing graduate that is now working his way up in the world of sports journalism. Having been writing for the last four years, Ben has written for a number of websites specialising in sport, with football a particular passion. He is a long-suffering England fan and eternal optimist when it comes to the Three Lions.



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