Goals from Tiago and Arda Turan earned Atletico Madrid their second league victory at the Bernabeu in two seasons, a result that will feel even better for Simeone’s men following their loss to their biggest rivals in last season’s Champions League final. Many have written off Atletico’s chances of defending their title this season after several key players departed the club during the transfer window, but the summer exodus seems to have had little impact last night as a well-drilled, efficient performance earned them a crucial win in Real Madrid’s own back yard.
In a cagey opening in which neither side wanted to give too much away, it was Atletico who struck first when Tiago nodded home from a Koke corner with ten minutes gone. Questions will rightly be asked of Real Madrid’s defending, and more specifically Karim Benzema, who made it far too easy for Tiago to reach and attack the ball first.
Real did respond brightly, however, with the gusto you would expect of a star-studded attack that is worth well over £300m, and it was the biggest name of them all that brought them back into the game. Cristiano Ronaldo, as he does so often, was the man to single-handedly create a goal, calmly converting a penalty which he had won himself when some quick trickery inside the box was too much for Guilherme Siquiera, sending Miguel Moya the wrong way.
Karim Benzema was then presented two wonderful opportunities to give Real the lead, both of which he squandered, inevitably prompting fans and critics alike to point out the Frenchman’s record of only finding the net twice in 18 games, form which is simply not good enough for a ‘Galaticos’ striker. First, Ronaldo had looked to have set him through on goal one on one, only for a shocking first touch to let the ball roll harmlessly into the goalkeeper’s hands, before a powerful header was smartly stopped by Moya.
Real Madrid’s attacking threat gradually diminished and frustrations grew as the game wore on, with Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez having particularly anonymous games despite their astronomically high price tags. Chances were at a premium but Bale came closest when his free kick was well parried by Moya, before Rodriguez harmlessly miss-kicked a volley onto the roof of the net.
With Simeone urging his side on from the stands, a punishment he must suffer for five more matches following his antics in the Spanish Super Cup, Atletico deservedly broke through on the 76th minute. Juanfran was afforded time to pick out a low cross into the area, and with no defensive midfielder for Real to guard the space in front of the defence, Arda Turan had all the space in the world to cooly slot away with a first time shot into the bottom corner after Raul Garcia’s dummy.