Atlético Madrid emerged with a late equaliser, right at the death, to secure a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, ensuring Los Blancos’ failure to secure a win over the Colchoneros in 90 minutes this season.
The game’s first crucial moment came when Atlético failed to clear the ball from their own box on not one, not two, but three occasions, and Brahim Díaz didn’t need asking twice to smash the ball past Jan Oblak and into the back of the net. Real Madrid’s similar dithering in defence allowed Marcos Llorente to score the leveller against his former club, in the third minute of four in second-half stoppage time.
Here are four of the key talking points from the game.
1. Did Atleti get robbed?
The travelling Atlético fans up in the top corner of the Bernabéu thought they had something to shout about when Stefan Savić nodded the ball past Andriy Lunin between the sticks of the Madrid goal to give Atleti a 48th-minute equaliser. Only moments later, the refereeing team decided to disallow the goal and instead pull play back for an offside in the build-up.
The decision was made that Saúl Ñíguez, one of those to fail to clear in Real Madrid’s goal, was in an offside position and interfering with play as he battled with Lunin. The decision was a controversial one, and it is entirely open to interpretation as to whether or not it was the correct call.
Not a SINGLE Madrid player complained about the goal, not even Lunin— ` (@a3avd_) February 4, 2024
This is the most corrupt league title of all time, everyone has seen it
Lunin made no attempt to move forward and toward the ball and, in fact, in the earlier clips, visibly grabs Saúl to pull him towards him and into an offside position. There is no contact or even close to it at the moment when Savić heads the ball or when it goes in. But equally, the argument is there that Saúl is clearly in an offside position and does block Lunin’s path.
Llorente’s equaliser led to gasps and fears of another VAR check for some unknown reason, but it wasn’t to be and instead Atleti emerged with a huge boost for their week ahead. It was just reward for a side that continued to fight, and it will be a relief for Los Rojiblancos that they did not come away empty-handed because of refereeing decisions.
2. Is Rodrigo Riquelme good enough for the big games?
Forget the Rocky Horror Show, the first 45 minutes were like the Roro Horror Show as Rodrigo Riquelme produced one of his weakest performances yet in an Atlético de Madrid shirt. It seemed to underline the difference between him and Samuel Lino, who has been trusted with the starting role in most of the highest-profile fixtures this season.
Riquelme had his work cut out, and was not helped by a late change to the Real Madrid line-up that saw Vinícius Júnior drop out and Brahim come in. As a result, much more of Madrid’s play was coming down the left flank than Diego Simeone might have expected in his pre-match preparations.
I don’t think there’s a single thing Riquelme is superior at than Lino.— FV (@FranHClO) February 4, 2024
Madrid’s triangles with Brahim, Jude Bellingham and Fede Valverde were running Riquelme ragged, as he was isolated on the left flank with Mario Hermoso and Saúl Ñíguez providing scant support. When they did, it was often to dive into challenges and leave Riquelme even more vulnerable.
It was a night that will give Riquelme nightmares for a while, and one which served to show that Lino has perhaps adjusted to the defensive duties more quickly than he has. But to be fair, Riquelme won’t come up against many tougher tests than this one — and you’d hope that if he does, he’ll have a better supporting cast around him.
3. Antoine Griezmann’s latest record
This was a game to forget in almost every aspect for Antoine Griezmann, who did not enjoy a good night on a team or individual level, and was quietly anonymous and closely marked by Toni Kroos. The Frenchman had limited influence, trying to find gaps in the middle where they didn’t exist and running into crowded spaces out wide.
However, Griezmann did write himself into the history books. With this appearance, he made his 521st LALIGA appearance to overtake former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi and become the foreign player with the most appearances in the competition.
Of those 521 games, 267 appearances and 123 goals have come in the red and white stripes of Atlético Madrid, with 180 appearances and 44 goals for Real Sociedad and 74 appearances/22 goals for Barcelona. It’s just the latest record he has broken in recent weeks, after he overtook Luis Aragonés as the club’s leading all-time goalscorer by scoring against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.
The stat has gone under the radar somewhat, perhaps owing to the fact that 39 of the appearances came in Segunda in his debut season with La Real, but it remains a remarkable achievement and landmark. For a man completely at home in Madrid, Atlético will hope Griezmann continues to add to his tally for some time to come.
4. Did this game really matter?
For the first time in a very, very long time, it felt like Atlético cared less about this derby than Real Madrid. For Atleti, the real priority in the next week is Wednesday night’s tie against Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg at the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano. Much has been made of the difference in rest time before the game, with Atleti having 48 hours fewer than their Basque counterparts, and it seemed to be a factor in how Simeone set up and handled this game.
It’s true that Simeone rotated less than some might have expected. Álvaro Morata started, having been rested against Rayo Vallecano after picking up a strain against Valencia last weekend. Pablo Barrios could have started in midfield, but his absence was not surprising either. In fact, the only fit player who did not start and might make it into the team’s strongest XI would be Lino.
In LALIGA, Atleti know their chances of a charge on the title are slim. A win at the Bernabéu would still have left the Colchoneros some seven points behind Madrid, six behind Girona, and knowing that their thin squad is unable to compete on three fronts in the business end of the season — with Copa del Rey semi-finals and the Champions League making a return this month as well.
Of course, on a mental level, Atleti would have loved to come away from the Bernabéu with a win to boost their confidence before taking on Athletic. But having beaten the league leaders twice already this season, a draw on the other side of the city is still a very solid result.