Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid go blow for blow in Champions League draw
There was plenty of blood, but no scoring, as Atletico and Real ground out a 0-0 draw on Tuesday night that leaves both sides with all to play for in the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu. Atletico keeper Jan Oblak made six critical stops in the first half to keep the home side in the match and then both hung on grimly as the match descended into a typically ill-tempered derby.
There may be retrospective action after this match as well, as cameras caught Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal punching and biting Mario Mandzukic on a play that went unseen by the referee. Mandzukic was also left bloodied by a collision with Sergio Ramos and would pick up a booking after returning to the field still bleeding.
Real Madrid continued their rather fruitless record in Madrid derbies this season coming into this season, winless now in seven games. But right out of the blocks, Los Blancos were faster and sharper, putting former Benfica backstop Oblak through the paces.
Gareth Bale, who has been under intense criticism at Real this season, seemed eager to make his mark in this match, and he would be a constant, harrying presence down the far flank, forcing Oblak into a sprawling stop in only the fourth minute. Arguably, the most expensive player in the world should have scored when he collected the ball in space down the gut, but as the game progressed, it appeared it was less of a blown chance, and more of an early indication of how hot Oblak was on the day.
Oblak would dominate the first half, denying Bale down low at the far post, and then making a truly superb stop on James Rodriguez. James took a lash at the ball with his left foot, sending a dipping curler over traffic to the far post in what would have been a truly spectacular strike – only to see Oblak somehow scramble the ball away.
It wasn’t until 7 minutes before the half ended that Atletico, which was largely content to smother and stay patient, even forced Iker Casillas to make a stop. Gabi pounced on a poor outlet from Sergio Ramos to find Antoine Griezmann on the turn, but the shot from the edge of the area was easy enough for Casillas to get to.
Oblak would again foil James before the break when Raphael Varane broke after a terrible short corner intended for Koke, rampaging down the far side. Feeding Karim Benzema, the forarwd found himself caught in two minds and laid it off for the young Colombian, who promptly shot across Oblak’s bow to earn another fine one-handed save. The teams would enter the lockers square at the break.
After the break is when things descended into the mire. Sergio Ramos appeared to elbow Mandzukic in the face, opening up a deep cut above his left eye. Furious at the foul and at the official, Mandzukic walked a tightrope for a while.
If anything, the foul seemed to energize Atletico, who started to break a bit from their pattern of smothering and containing. At the end of the match and with Fernando Torres on the field, they would also final craft a few serious chances.
Torres nearly made Casillas pay for a flap but he could not get his head to a looping ball. Then, Mario Suarez would be denied low by Casillas before Mandzukic blew a hard shot in bravely stopped by sub Alvaro Arbeloa. Atleti claimed furiously that Arbeloa had handled the ball, but the ball had in fact come off his midriff and the ref was right on the scene.
That was how things would end — with a flurry. Marcelo and Suarez will now miss the next games due to bookings, but neither side will be too troubled by Tuesday’s result. Atletico proved once more that they are least Real’s equal; Real will be pleased to go home all square. Expect more fireworks and low blows next time out.
”Well, we have been scoring goals in the Bernabeu recently, so anything is possible,” Atletico captain Gabriel ”Gabi” Fernandez said. ”It cost us a lot to get into this match and it’s good to have a secure goal. But we’ve got to hang onto the ball more.”
”The first half was very different to the second half,” Madrid captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas said. ”In the first half we were the better side but we were denied by some fantastic saves by Oblak. The tie is still open, very open.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.