Even with Gareth Bale still out with his mysterious injury, Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t forced to do everything on his own in order for Real Madrid to put in an impressive and dominating performance, getting plenty of help from his midfield and especially Luka Modric and Pepe.
After two consecutive losses to Atletico Madrid, one of them coming last season in the Copa Del Rey final and the other this season at the Santiago Bernabeu, it was about revenge as much as it was about making it to the final for a second consecutive season, or at least doing well enough to make it a second leg that doesn’t matter that much.
And so it was: Real Madrid won 3-0. Yes, they did score two goals off deflections – one off Insua in the 17th minute and the other off Miranda in the 73rd minute, but it was clear from pretty much the first moment in the match which team came to try and win the match and which side was trying to interfere and try to go into the second leg with minimum damage.
There wasn’t that much of a football match through the 90 minutes. Provocations, diving, arguments and a whole lot of dirty playing from both sides wasted plenty of minutes that should have been dedicated to football, but through some excellent midfield play from Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric, getting help from behind through Pepe and from the forward line with Angel Di Maria leaving the wing and dropping back to squeeze Atletico Madrid in the middle, Atletico Madrid had no possession and hardly a chance to create something dangerous at Casillas’ goal.
Real Madrid couldn’t open up Atletico Madrid completely. The Diego Simeone team defends well and is disciplined even when things aren’t going their way. They’re also quite dirty in their ways of stopping opponents, but both sides were at fault that we saw too many bodies rolling on the ground and too many players arguing with the referee. It’s nothing new to the Spanish La Liga, which too many times looks like a bad joke when it comes to the relationship between players and the officials.
Cristiano Ronaldo had a bad match: Three chances at goal, none of them something that gave Courtois too much trouble. The day belonged to Jese, scoring his third goal in three matches, giving the home side someone to be proud of while Alvaro Morata’s season seems to be stuck since the first month when it looked like he’ll be the player that’ll finally give Blancos fans a home grown player to be proud of.
When Gareth Bale returns, he’ll probably drop Jese out of the lineup, as expected from someone who costs so much, but Real Madrid have looked just as good with the youngster in the lineup, who looked like the best and most dangerous of an attacking line that included Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema as well.
Real Madrid are still behind Atletico in the league, but if matches like this have any psychological effect on the rivalry, this was probably something that gave Real Madrid the edge back in the battle for the city and eventually the championship.