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Real Madrid Fails To Prove Superiority

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Atletico Madrid Koke celebrates the equalizing goal
Atletico Madrid Koke celebrates the equalizing goal

For over 10 years Madrid’s derby was always another game for Real Madrid to prove its superiority against their city rival Atletico de Madrid. All of that changed with the arrival of Diego Simeone, “El Cholo” as he is known made Atletico a competitive team again. 

Today Atletico proved that there are more than two teams in La Liga, and that Barcelona and Real Madrid can not discard them just yet.

The expectations for this game were high, not only it was a derby but just last week Real Madrid took the top position in the league after Barcelona and Atletico lost their respective games. To add more fuel, just a few weeks ago, Real Madrid had eliminated Atletico from the Copa del Rey with a final aggregated score of 5-0. If there is anything I have learned about this Atletico is that you can never discard them, and even though Madrid came from a 6-1 victory over Schalke in the Champions League, this game was not going to be the same.

One of the major changes for Simeone on this game was that he finally decided to bench Diego Ribas. The Brazilian came back to Madrid as a last minute transfer this past January, but still he has not been the player he was two years ago when he led Atletico Madrid to win the Europa League.

On the other hand, Carlo Ancelotti made little changes to the team that crushed Schalke last Wednesday; Alvaro Arbeloa for Daniel Carvajal, Fabio Coentrao for Marcelo and Diego Lopez for Iker Casillas.

An early goal by Karim Benzema silenced the Vicente Calderon. Many feared the worst, but there is a reason why Atletico is fighting for the top position, they never give up. 

If Madrid wanted to destroy Atletico’s morale by scoring an early goal, then the plan backfired. The intensity that Atletico players put after that first goal was asphyxiating. Diego Costa was like a sharp knife trying to penetrate Madrid’s defense, he kept pushing and pushing making both Pepe and Sergio Ramos look like slow amateurs. Today he proved why Vincente Del Bosque wants him in the national squad. He outran both defenders and in one opportunity he ran in between both of them. Atletico started shooting, attacking, pushing, kicking and screaming (Simeone kept yelling instructions and asking their fans to keep chanting). It was intense, some may say borderline violent, but not quite there yet. 

It was in the 28th minute that Atletico winger Arda Turan saw Koke wide open and passed the ball to the young Spaniard who shot to goal against a defenseless Diego Lopez. They say that in football you don’t deserve goals, you have to score them, and so they tried. Atletico did not have enough with the equalizer and they kept pressing and attacking, and it was in the last play of the first half with Gabi receiving the ball 35 yards away from the goal and decides to shoot. BOOM. GOAL!

In the second half Ancelotti realized that he had made a mistake, and in order for Real Madrid to move the ball effectively he needed to change two players, Arbeloa and Coentrao. After Carvajal and Marcelo came in the game changed. Madrid started to dominate, and a the fierce Atletico started to banish. No team can go 90 minutes with the level of intensity that Atletico had in the first 60 minutes of the game. Simeone decided to bring Cristian “Cebolla” Rodriguez in, but just seconds before the substitution was made Real Madrid scored the equalizing goal. A play started by Isco, who passed the ball to Gareth Bale but the Welshman failed to control the ball but was lucky enough that it fell to Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo shot to goal, and scored. 

Atletico kept attacking as much as they could, Costa kept running tirelessly, but his teammates couldn’t keep up. In one of his last chances he outran Carvajal, but it wasn’t enough. When the referee signaled the end of the game everything was over, both teams got one point. 

There are many things to keep in mind after this game. To the Real Madrid fans and the press that were already celebrating the treble (Champions League, La Liga and Copa Del Rey) after the game against Schalke, this game was a wake up call. Real Madrid has an amazing team, with players like Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema and Luca Modric but that’s not enough. Against Atletico we saw very little of them, both Ronaldo and Benzema scored today, but their performance was very poor. It is more worrying that they have not done well against the big teams this season. They lost at home against Atletico and lost to Barcelona at Camp Nou. This team still has to prove itself against one the big teams.