Real Madrid kept their La Liga title defence alive by the thinnest of threads, as they recovered from a one goal deficit to draw 1-1 with Atletico Madrid in the derby played at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Atletico kicked the game off five points ahead of the defending champions, and the league leaders also hold a game in hand over their city rivals, so anything but a win wasn’t the result Zinedine Zidane’s men wanted. And despite knowing this, they began like a team with nothing to play for.
The hosts were far superior in the opening sequences, much hungrier off the ball, in a game that was intense only because Atletico were over-crowding Madrid at every opportunity. The tone was being set by Marcos Llorente, and it was he who created the opening goal. In an attacking transition, Nacho Fernandez dived in on Llorente close to the half-way line, and a beautiful touch got Llorente away from the Madrid central defender before securing his eighth assist of the season when Luis Suarez tucked away the opener with the outside of his foot past the on-rushing Thibaut Courtois.
There were more chances for Atletico, but they weren’t able to test Courtois in the first half, and their hard-work was nearly undone in the final moments of the half, when Felipe handled the ball from a Toni Kroos corner. Referee Hernandez Hernandez looked at VAR, and decided it wasn’t a penalty. A controversial decision for sure, as Casemiro was behind Felipe and had a tap-in at the back-post had it not struck the hand of the defender. Despite that, Atletico deserved the lead having been far superior in the first half.
After the break, the game opened up. Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior were introduced replacing the static Marco Asensio and Rodrygo Goes, and Madrid were back in the contest. But before they got a foothold in the game, Atletico had chances to bury it. Courtois twice in a matter of minutes saved from countryman Yannick Carrasco, and then from Suarez, both one on one, the Belgian keeper keeping Madrid alive. Though there was nothing Courtois could have done when Angel Correa had an opportunity of his own. Carrasco’s header back across goal found Correa in acres of space, but his shanked effort didn’t change the scoreline. That would be costly.
Madrid grew and grew, the impacts of Vinicius and Valverde were evident. The Brazilian created the opening for Karim Benzema, with a delightful outside of the boot pass on a plate for Benzema, but the Frenchman was twice denied by Jan Oblak from close-range. Then the moment came, three minutes from time, on the counter attack, Casemiro and Benzema ripped through the defence, playing a one-two before Benzema tucked in the equaliser into an empty net.
A game which was there for the taking for Zidane had he taken more risks in the first half, but nevertheless, not the worst possible result. The defence of the title is still on. Madrid have 12 games to play, and 36 points to play for, but currently sit in third place – two points behind second placed Barcelona, and currently five, but potentially eight behind league leaders Atletico.
Up next for Real Madrid?
When? Saturday 13th March @ 16:15 CET
Where? Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano