It was another night of misery for Atletico Madrid against their cross-town rivals in the European stage. Moreover, it was probably one of the worst performances they have put in against Real Madrid in the past few years and the scoreline is only a reflection of that. On the other hand, any notion that Cristiano Ronaldo was on the decline has been hit out of the park with this match.
Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Bayern Munich may have come under the shadow of poor refereeing but this time, all three were as fair as they could possibly be. Any indication of a decline may from the end of the Diego Simeone’s side. Atletico are known for going to any stadium in the world and defending any scoreline to the point that the opponents simply give up. They have been especially efficient in this regard at the Bernabeu, leaving aside the heart-breaks they have had to endure against Real in the two Champions League finals that the two sides have been part of. In fact, except for the loss that they suffered two years ago in the Champions League finals, Atletico have been unbeaten in their last six matches against Real Madrid in the latter’s home ground.
But it seems the two Champions League losses they suffered was bearing down on Simeone’s side. On the night, Real outclassed them in defence and attack. Players from both sides had chances in the first half and, barring Ronaldo, both have missed chances to talk of from the match. The fact that Real managed to keep making those chances is testimony to the fact that Atletico were uncharacteristically leaky in defence. It was on one such instance that Atletico failed to clear a Carvajal cross and it was sent back in by Casemiro. Ronaldo rose above everyone else to head it in. Real were one up.
Atletico did react positively. A few minutes later, Kevin Gameiro was put in behind the Real defence by Koke and it was only because of the alertness of Keylor Navas that the Frenchman didn’t score. Another instance was when Griezmann cheekily chipped a free-kick into the path of Diego Godin. The latter stretched but the shot was well over the bar.
In the second half, the substitutions from both sides seem to make a world of a difference. Zinedine Zidane brought in Marco Asensio for Isco. One frighteningly effective individual for another. Lucas Vazquez was brought in for Karim Benzema while, at half time, Nacho Fernandez was brought on for the injured Dani Carvajal. Benzema was off the pace in the match and Vazquez’s inclusion gave Real more teeth in attack. On the other hand, Fernando Torres, who came in for Kevin Gameiro hardly had a touch of the ball during his stay on the field. The same could be said about Angel Correa who replaced the dangerous Yannick Carrasco.
Ronaldo’s second soon came when he shook off Filipe Luis to thunder in an almost unstoppable shot. The match was getting a bit scrappy by then but this goal put Real right back on track. Atletico pushed further after that but Real kept hitting them on the counter. Finally, Lucas Vazquez put Ronaldo in after almost running the ball out of play and the Portuguese became the first to score back-to-back hat-tricks in the Champions League.
Altetico Madrid are not Barcelona and Real Madrid are not PSG. It hence seems the last European act to be staged at the Vicente Calderon will Atletico’s exit from the semi-final stage to their local rivals. There quite a few question marks hanging on the heads of various parts of the team, including the future of Diego Simeone himself. What impact this result will have on them, only time will tell.
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