13 years ago, Real Madrid fans displayed a banner that read, “WANTED: worthy opponent for derby clash” The taunt was targeted at Atletico Madrid as derbies between the two clubs (Real and Atletico stadiums are separated by a mere 9 km in the city of Madrid) have always been one-sided, with Real claiming victory. However, things have changed and today, Atletico have won 3 out of last 4 matches against Real, holders of the Champions League 2014 title.
The Match of the Week kicked off in 3°C weather at the Vincente Caledron, Atletico’s home ground. The home side drew first blood when Juanfran whipped in a cross from the right flank, which was footed down by Mandzukic to an oncoming Tiago to strike from 18 yards outside the box. An unready Casillas carelessly palmed the shot only to end up sprawling as the ball crossed the line to give Atletico the lead on the 13th minute. It was uncommon to see the Real captain failing to keep out a straight shot to his right, though it could be that his line of sight was blocked by his massed defense.
Atletico continued to rain attack after attack, and on the 17th minute, Siqueira showed off a brilliant piece of solo dribbling before providing a chip to homegrown player, Saul, who executed a sumptuous bicycle kick that rattled the left post before hitting the net, leaving the Madrid defenders rooted. The Calderon went wild in celebration for what Saul said to be “a mixture of happiness and freeing“. Truly, Atleti were running riot against the 9-time Champions League winners, which seemed like a dream come true for the traditional underdogs.
Real were still not on the ball as their vaunted ‘counter attack by the flanks’ led by Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema, hit a roadblock consisting of an overwhelming number of defensive players keeping a compact and organized shape at the Atletico back end. Tension and frustration ran high for Real as Atleti kept possession for the majority of the first half, denying much opportunity for an iconic Real Madrid fast break.
With the second half underway, Real were still struggling defensively, probably due to the absence of key defenders, Pepe and Ramos. Casillas pulled off a vital save from a Griezmann shot, keeping Madrid in the game on the 60th minute. But on the 66th minute, Arda sent a cross to the far post towards Mandzukic, drawing Casillas and Carvajal out of position. Mandzukic nodded the ball across goal for a hungry Griezmann to slot the ball past Varane’s challenge, scoring Atletico’s third goal.
Real brought on Isco and Chicharito for Illarremendi and Benzema on the 68th and 73rd minutes respectively to provide an alternative attacking approach, yet to no avail. The only noticeable shot was from Illarremendi which skyrocketed over the upright.
Finally, Atletico star, Mandzukic, joined the score sheet with a diving header to seal the 3 points over Real Madrid.
Real Madrid were outclassed and taken apart by their rival, Atletico Madrid, in an embarrassing defeat for the richest club in football. Diego Simone, manager of Atletico Madrid, sang praises of his team’s commendable spirit and effort after the game — a game in which Atletico displayed a delightful showcase of intensive attacking football, whether in terms of individual skill or team effort. This unprecedented victory for Atletico goes to show that a hungry, determined opponent with the right tools can run riot against a top flight team! Without a doubt, Atletico Madrid have finally stepped up to be that “worthy opponent” of the Madrid Derby.