“You either die the hero or live long enough to become the hero” - Harvey Dent
Final score: Atletico Madrid 0-3 Real Madrid
Diego Simeone will never be a villain at the Vicente Calderon but his attempts to turn Atletico into an attacking force have failed so far this season and one would have to wonder if he will see out his contract that he shortened in the summer from 2020 until 2018.
In the last Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon in La Liga, Diego Simeone opted for Fernando Torres to start the game ahead of Kevin Gameiro in a gamble that did not work out based on the opening 45 minutes. Atletico struggled to get the ball to him but even when they did, Nacho or Varane had him swallowed up and devoid of options before he got the chance to even control the ball.
The paradox of playing Koke as a central midfield to control the game against a team like Real Madrid is that possession will be either split down the middle or a team like Atletico with nobody to destroy play and win it back will struggle to keep it. So, the tactics of playing Koke to keep the ball and orchestrate play requires the ball first and foremost. Atletico did not see as much of it as they would have like in the first half and with Bale and Isco covering a mammoth amount of ground, it meant Cholo’s side need creativity from other areas that they did not get.
Juanfran and Filipe Luis were kept busy with the threat of Bale and Vazquez on the right and left while Stefan Savic looked like a shadow of the player who started the league ahead of Gimenez and proved his worth on a weekly basis in the early going.
Real Madrid had the best of the early chances exchanges and Ronaldo thought he had given the visitors the lead only for Oblak to get down and save on the line, keeping the scores at 0-0, despite the protests from the Real Madrid player that the ball had actually crossed the line.
It wouldn’t be long before Ronaldo had given his side the lead when a free-kick from distance struck Savic on the thigh and beat Oblak to his left.
Ronaldo had another chance after that when he turned Savic expertly but shot close to Oblak under pressure from the Montenegrin.
Atletico did pick up the pace and started to control the game but inspiration was in short supply as Torres and Griezmann failed to make a meaningful connection and Atletico’s midfield not linking well with their attackers either.
With the crowd get a little frustrated, the ref blew the whistle as the fans hoped to see Gameiro and, or, Gaitan replacing some of Atletico’s quieter players.
Those changes were not forthcoming but one change Atletico made was in their mindset and the tired, laboured display in the first half was switched for an exciting more forceful Atleti.
Yannick Carrasco came closest in those opening exchanges as he curled just over Keylor Navas’ crossbar after pressure forced aturnover for the Rojiblancos.
Griezmann also got put through by Koke but his cross/shot just fizzed across the area out of the danger zone.
Despite that early burst of hope, Atletico failed to build on it and slowly but surely started to cede more ground to the visitors. Any hope of an Atletico comeback were all but dashed when Stefan Savic took Ronaldo down in the penalty area and the Portuguese slotted home the penalty to give a 2-0 lead.
Ronaldo rounded off his hat-trick in the 77th minute when he guided home a Gareth Bale cross, giving himself a good chance, in the process, of collecting the Ballon d’Or with voting for the award closing next week.
It’s back to the drawing board for Simeone and Atletico, who did not look like even scoring save the opening 15 minutes of the second half. They now sit nine points behind leaders Real Madrid, who are ahead of Barcelona in second by four points.
Atletico play PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Wednesday at the Calderon while Real Madrid travel to Lisbon to play Sporting in their next game buoyed by the victory over their city rivals in such a meaningful clash.