For the sixth consecutive season, Atlético departed Estadio Santiago Bernabéu with a point, which equalled Valencia’s mark set between 1942 and 1948. Neither side could capitalize on Barcelona’s draw against Athletic Club on Saturday afternoon, and both should feel this result is fair — Atleti controlled the first half, Real Madrid the second. Los colchoneros now have either drawn or won 10 of the past 11 league derbies.
The first half was physical and cagey, but the two best chances went to Atlético. On 17 minutes, Koke pinged a ball into Antoine Griezmann’s path and the Frenchman took off for goal. He may have been offside, but the flag stayed down as he drifted to his left and tried to chip Thibaut Courtois — only to see the Belgian stop the shot with his head. About 20 minutes later it was Griezmann’s turn to supply Diego Costa, but the Spain international also was stopped by Courtois. In a bit of Chelsea-on-Chelsea crime, Courtois made a fingertip save from a difficult angle.
Atlético had no problem getting down and dirty — Simeone’s men committed nine fouls without a yellow card, four days after they had just one against Huesca — and controlled play for stretches even with under 40 percent possession. Rodri’s presence in recovering the ball and passing accurately (96 percent) was a large reason for that.
Real Madrid’s best chance in the opening 45 came through Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale, as the German’s 20th minute free kick landed on Bale’s foot and rolled inches wide of Jan Oblak. Madrid also received a let-off when a Casemiro handball in the box did not go to VAR.
Bale would have to come off at halftime with a muscle injury, and Dani Ceballos replaced him. The ex-Real Betis midfielder grabbed match by the scruff of its neck and regained control for his side, which left Atlético little recourse but to burrow like ticks in defense as the second half wore on. Oblak made key stops on Marco Asensio and Dani Carvajal, while José Giménez — who was a doubt for this match with his own muscular injury — stepped up to wipe away any further danger.
Julen Lopetegui’s surprise decision to throw on Brazilian starlet Vinicius Jr. at the end was met with more resistance, while Diego Simeone’s substitutions perhaps reflected shifting roles within his team. Diego Costa’s goal drought extended yet another week, with Nikola Kalinić sent on in a bid to win the match. Thomas Lemar faded while Ángel Correa offered something different from tight central spaces.
This match was a grind — an intense, emotionally-charged battle with half a dozen bookings and great goalkeeping. In the end, Atlético just about got what they came for and now will prepare for Wednesday’s Champions League home match against Club Brugge.
RM XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Nacho; Casemiro, Modrić (Lucas V 82’), Kroos; Bale (Ceballos 46’), Benzema (Vinicius Jr. 88’), Asensio.
ATM XI: Oblak; Juanfran, Giménez, Godín, Filipe Luís; Rodri (Kalinić 83’), Saúl, Koke, Lemar (Correa 60’); Griezmann, Costa (Thomas 68’).