Real Madrid and city rivals Atletico toiled to a 0-0 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night, in what was the 22nd Madrid derby of the last five years.
In a match that lacked quality, the first big chance of the first half fell to Antoine Griezmann. Saul Ñiguez’s through ball beat the high line of Real, but one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois, the Frenchman’s shot was well saved by the former Chelsea stopper.
It was sloppiness that granted the visitors their opening and it seemed that Los Blancos didn’t learn from their earlier mistake, as Toni Kroos’ loose pass gifted Atletico another opportunity to break at pace.
Unintelligent positioning from Sergio Ramos allowed Diego Costa in on goal, but his shoddy control saw Courtois smother an attempted toe-poke finish.
The second half was void of action until the 65th minute, when a great Kroos ball found Asensio unmarked at the back stick. Closing the Spaniard down very quickly, Jan Oblak made himself big and sent the ball behind for a corner.
The match descended into a little bit of gamesmanship late on, as Real fans made their discontent known.
None of the six substitutes (including a debut-making Vinicius Junior) livened the game up, as it petered out into a draw.
Atleti will take comfort in the fact they are unbeaten away in the league at the Bernabeu in the last six years. However, for Julen Lopetegui’s side this was a missed opportunity to go top.
Key Talking Point
Unable to do anything when having the ball at their feet, the acumen of Rodrigo and Saul really ate into Kroos and Luka Modric’s ability to create. Usually dicing up back lines for fun, the two were left wandering around in this evening’s bout.
It truly was a dull battle, so there is little else to say. However, the onus for beating Atleti’s near impenetrable wall wasn’t completely on Real’s central figures, as Asensio and Dani Ceballos offered zero too.
Starting XI (4-3-3): Courtois (8*); Carvajal (6), Ramos (6), Varane (7), Nacho (7); Casemiro (6), Kroos (6), Modric (6); Bale (5), Benzema (5), Asensio (6).
Substitutes: Ceballos (6), Vazquez (5), Vinicius (N/A).
STAR MAN – Thibaut Courtois
Two massive saves in the first half, many Real Madrid zealots could suggest that if Courtois was not in net, the game would’ve taken a different route.
While many will disagree with his goalkeeper of the year award, the Belgian’s display in this one most definitely highlighted his brilliance. One-on-one blocks from both Griezmann and Costa, he won’t face many better strikers this La Liga season.
Worst Player – Gareth Bale
A lot was expected of the Welshman in tonight’s clash, but his performance didn’t live up to the billing. Any effect he could’ve had was negated by Atleti’s deep lying defence, as Diego Simeone’s side weren’t up for getting beat in behind.
Subbed at half time after feeling a tweak in his calf muscle, Bale will no doubt be bitterly disappointed that he wasn’t able to help Real in the second period.
Key Talking Point
It may seem like a chore to read about Atletico Madrid’s continual defensive solidity, but it repeatedly returns as topic for a reason. Following their manager’s orders to a tee, both Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez dominated Karim Benzema for the whole ninety.
Real only got in behind them once or twice in this outing, and with Jan Oblak between the sticks, they were bailed out with a fair ease. If they are to challenge for any sort of silverware this campaign, these sort of performances will need to be replicated.
Starting XI (4-4-2): Oblak (8*); Juanfran (7), Godin (7), Gimenez (8), Luis (7); Koke (6), Saul (6), Rodrigo (7), Lemar (5); Costa (4), Griezmann (5).
Substitutes: Correa (5), Partey (6), Kalinic (N/A).
STAR MAN – Jan Oblak
Often going under the radar across Europe when it comes to talking the continent’s best, Oblak is certainly not undervalued by Los Rojiblancos supporters.
His saves from Asensio and Modric were crucial to Atleti leaving the Bernabeu with a point, especially in a match were he had little to do for large spells.
Worst Player – Diego Costa
Giving nothing up top for Griezmann to work off, Costa’s influence on this match was muted. His most memorable moments were getting into classic verbal spats with Ramos, as his frustration slowly boiled over.
With viewers able to use their fingers in counting the forward’s total touches, it was surprise Simeone took seventy minutes to remove him.
Real Madrid will be annoyed with their inability to create any clear cut chances throughout the match, specifically because Atleti’s game plan was so obvious coming into this clash.
Unable to steal a march on Barcelona after their earlier draw this afternoon, attention will now turn towards a Champions League tie against CSKA Moscow on Tuesday.
As for the visitors, they will no doubt be comfortable with taking away a solitary point from their rivals ground. Known for spiky play in big encounters, Simeone’s men executed well.