With numerous players out and returning from injury, Atlético Madrid was left somewhat shorthanded, specifically at right-back, where both first teamers were injured, making it a necessity to start the left-footed Lucas Hernandez. Having recently signed a new contract, this meant a lot of pressure on the young defender, who has yet to nail down a consistent starting place this season and facing Cristiano Ronaldo is no cakewalk. Diego Godín and Yannick Carrasco also made their first-team return after being left out against Las Palmas.
In the first half, Atlético struggled to cope with Real Madrid’s attack, and could not fashion too many opportunities going forward. Atleti went 1-0 just ten minutes into the match after Cristiano Ronaldo scored, and Atleti’s defense looked shaky for a period. In the second half they looked sturdier, if still under pressure from Real Madrid for much of the match. Despite Real’s shot dominance in the first half, 70 minutes into the second, they had yet to register a shot as Atleti tried to hold on to what they had, and exploit any counter attack opportunities.
Atleti’s subs were very attacking in nature, with Nico Gaitan, Ángel Correa and Fernando Torres entering for Saúl, Carrasco and Gameiro respectively. Clearly, Diego Simeone wanted an away goal in this match that they could take back to the Calderon for the second leg. This left Atleti weak at the back, and again Cristiano Ronaldo scored after Atleti’s defense fell apart, Godín, Savic and Filipe all being culpable. Atleti were punished for not probing the Real defenses enough in this match. The attacking substitutions did not have the desired impact, Gaitan made a few forward runs, but his final pass was off, Torres was mostly invisible in this match, and Correa was equally ineffective.
And the bane of Atleti’s existence in the Champions League again punished them with the third goal, his hat trick. With no away goal, a 3-0 deficit and the attacking power Real have, the second leg comeback is going to have to be of epic proportions, but Atleti lost this match, and deserved to. Not enough going forward, and too little fight in midfield, Saúl leaving the match hurt Atleti greatly.
It’s difficult to see any way back for Atleti after this result, too much would have to go their way against a team which they’ve failed to beat this year. It seems again Real will be the end of Atleti’s Champions League campaign. This match, though, has more to do with the player’s poor performance against what is one of the best teams in the world, than any outside forces. Despite a strong team put out, it was not tough enough to withstand the sledgehammer attack of Real Madrid.