The Madrid derby always promises an intriguing prospect, however tonight was a rather different affair to those we have seen in previous meetings between these two sides. Clear cut chances were few and far between in the 90 minutes of this 1st leg quarter final champions league game, however it was Real Madrid who created the majority of them in a first half that saw them totally dominate.
The game began with a usually Madrid derby feel. The atmosphere promised so much, and it was the away side who began the game brightest. Strong in the tackles and first to each 50/50 balls, Athletico were on the back foot from the get go. Real looked confident knocking the ball across the field, though it was from a hopeful ball up field that created their first and probably the games best opportunity.
Within the opening 10 minutes of the game a long ball forward was poorly dealt by Diego Godin who failed to make any real contact on the ball,allowing it to drop into Gareth Bale. His first touch took him clear of Godin and sprinting towards the Athletico box.A golden chance for Bale to hit back at the critics who have been so outspoken in recent weeks however it was not to be as Bale’s effort was fantastically saved by the onrushing Athletico keeper Jan Oblak, who made himself big and parried the ball away. This was to be Real’s best opportunity of the match and one Bale really should have finished.
Ramos was a rock at the heart of the Real defence and throughout the first half he kept both Madzukic and Griezman under control with fantastically timed tackles halting any Athletico progress. Half an hour in and Bale tested his luck again this time from range. A powerful low left footed drive which was well saved by Oblak. The Athletico keeper continued to have a busy half, holding Ronaldo’s fizzing free kick from range before expertly denying James Rodriguez on 36 minutes. A corner fell back to the edge of the area and the little Columbian flicked the ball back towards goal with the outside of his foot only to see his clever effort saved by the excellent Oblak.
Athletico grew into the first half, and defended well throughout limiting Real to mostly long shots at goal or forcing them out wide. It was the inform Griezman who had their first chance. A poor ball out from the back from Ramos saw the ball nodded back to Griezman on the edge of the area who quickly controlled the ball and spun sending a volley towards goal that was easily saved by Iker Casillas.
Chances were few and far between for Athletico in the first half and they were on the back foot again shortly before half time. After a break down from an Athletico set piece Rapheal Varane showed his pace. Picking up the ball just outside his own box he broke away leaving Athletico players trailing, however his final cross was over-hit bypassing Ronaldo who would have had a simple tap in. Instead the ball fell to Benzema who after a little bit of luck found Rodriguez who’s low shot was again well saved by Oblak who made a total of 6 saves in the first half. There was just time for Griezman to nod over the bar under pressure from Ramos before the half time whistle was blown. A tasty affair in the first half full,the second half promised more of the same.
Athletico came out of the break quickest and Arda Turan headed wide a few minutes into the half. Mandzukic was then forced off after clashing with Ramos and the Athletico striker was to be off for more than ten minutes receiving treatment. Kroos tested Oblak from range, though it was easily dealt with by the keeper.Mandzukic returned to play shortly after.
Athletico continued their first half defensive display by frustrating Real to mainly long range shots, however 20 minutes before time Real broke forward down the left hand side and the ball was fed into Benzema who found himself in plenty of space in the box, but inexplicably decided to attempt a backheel instead of opting for the shot. The chance came to nothing. It was a poor choice from the striker who had an uncharacteristically poor night. He made way for Isco a few minutes later.
The final 15 minutes saw little goalmouth action for either side with both sides cancelling each other out. Marcelo was booked a few minutes from time which will see him miss the next leg. At the death an Athletico corner fell to Mario Suarez 6 yards out who couldn’t quite connect cleanly with his bicycle kick allowing Casillas to punch the ball away.
That was to be the final action in what was a lively game, 0-0 it ended setting up an intriguing game at the Bernabeu next week, with both teams still believing they can go through.
Man of the match: Jan Oblak. The Slovenian international frustrated Ronaldo and company all night , and has given his side every chance to go to the Bernabeu and get enough from the game to see Athletico through.