When the final whistle went at the end of the first ever Madrid derby at the Wanda Metropolitano, Atlético’s new home 12 miles across the city from their old one, there was no roar, but there was a little relief. A 0-0 draw suits neither side and was nothing to celebrate but at least it was not cruel, as some Atlético fans feel their history against Real has been. Instead, it was largely empty. It leaves both teams from the capital ten points behind Barcelona and showcased the reasons why that is the case. Isco apart, this was a game desperately lacking in creativity or control. Lacking goals too.
Atlético should have had a very early lead when a move – if it could really be called that – ended with Raphaël Varane nudging the ball into the path of Ángel Correa after just three minutes, and nothing much would follow for the next 87. The move had been built on errors and it ended with one too. Correa, alone in front of goal, clipped past Kiko Casilla and wide of the near post. Correa held his head while on the touchline Diego Simeone looked like he was close to tears; he could hardly have wished for a better opportunity, but it was wasted – and that is a familiar feeling this season.
Simeone’s side continued to press, Correa, Stefan Savic and Koke forming a line of three behind Antoine Griezmann and in front of Gabi and Thomas Partey. Koke couldn’t quite reach a ball flashed across from the left and soon Correa was dashing into the area on the other side before Gabi’s volley flew wide. Genuine chances were few though, for either side. When Real did threaten in those opening 20 minutes, it came via a break from deep, Ronaldo suddenly sprinting through only for Juanfran to catch him and, to huge applause, emerge with the ball. In a race between the two, he was an unexpected winner.
That was a warning, perhaps, and soon the balance tilted. Real found that if they overcame the first line of pressure, space opened beyond. They took a step forward, and more control of the ball. On the left, Isco, Karim Benzema and Marcelo made progress, the immense majority of the attacks coming on their side, but Real seemed to lack acceleration, an extra gear; imagination, too. In five minutes from the half hour, they fired off four shots. Toni Kroos had the first and best, playing a one-two with Ronaldo and shooting wide from seven yards.
Ronaldo scuffed a volley well over and then, with a long free-kick, drew a save from Jan Oblak. That would be the only shot on target of the first half. Next Kroos speared a ball to the far post, where Casemiro headed back. Sergio Ramos, diving in by the outstretched foot of Lucas, headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box – and sustained a broken nose that ruled him out of the second half, his place taken by Nacho.
Atlético changed too but the game did not change significantly; if anything, it regressed. Isco tried to get Real going but he was largely alone again. Yannick Carrasco ran but rarely made the right decision for Atlético. There was little clarity, little imagination, little pace to the play, and not much sign of a striker – either to take chances or make them. There was little threat in the movement of the men playing up front.
When Luka Modric found Ronaldo in space inside the area his poor shot went wide. There still hadn’t been a shot on target in the second half. Three changes followed immediately: Griezmann, Correa and Benzema off, Fernando Torres, Kevin Gameiro and Marco Asensio on. Gameiro clipped over Casilla, only to see the shot headed off the line. Next, Carrasco’s shot crashed into Ronaldo’s arm. Real knew a draw was worthless and took a step forward; nerves gripped in this new arena. Kroos’s shot was beaten away by Oblak and, with Ronaldo lurking, Diego Godín cleared. Then Lucas dived in to block Ronaldo’s shot with two minutes to go. Two more were added, hearts in mouths, but there was to be no drama.
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