Atletico Madrid thrashed crosstown rival Real Madrid 4-0 in a dominant derby performance on Saturday that threw open the Spanish league title race. The defending champions dominated the match at Vicente Calderon Stadium from the start as Tiago Cardoso and substitute Saul Niguez scored early before Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic sealed the lopsided victory in the second half.
The return of Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t help an injury-hit Madrid, which also got subdued showings from its other star players.
“We didn’t have a player who had a good game,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. Atletico pulled to within four points of Madrid. Barcelona also trails Madrid by four before visiting Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. Diego Simeone’s side is undefeated in six meetings with Madrid since losing last season’s Champions League final.
“Everything went our way from the first minute and we didn’t give Madrid a chance,” said Tiago. “Our coach again has been boosted because everything he said came to pass. He told us to find spaces to attack Madrid behind its defense and that’s what happened.”
After Simeone came back to coach his former team, Atletico ended Madrid’s 14-year reign in the capital clash at a dramatic Copa del Rey final in 2013. Atletico may have had more important victories over its fiercest rival since then, but none were this complete.
Madrid was without several injured first-choice players in James Rodriguez, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Luka Modric, while Marcelo was suspended. But it still had enough star power with Ronaldo back from a two-match ban for kicking an opponent. Not to mention Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and midfield pair Toni Kroos and Francisco “Isco” Alarcon.
None could stem the red-and-white tide. “We have to erase this match,” said Madrid defender Dani Carvajal.
Since finishing 2014 on a Spanish record 22-win streak, Madrid has been eliminated by Atletico from the Copa del Rey and now beaten a second time in the league this season.
Atletico’s dominance in the first half hour was absolute. While Atletico overpowered Madrid in the midfield, even after it lost playmaker Jorge Koke Resurreccion to a leg injury in the eighth minute, it picked the visitors apart on the wings. Atletico’s first goal in the 12th started when right back Juanfran Torres broke down the flank to send in a cross that was flicked on to Mandzukic, who saw Tiago arriving in a second wave. Tiago drilled his strike through the hands of goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who could have done more to keep the ball out. The goal left Madrid reeling and ignited the crowd as Atletico pressed for a second goal that it found through Niguez, Koke’s replacement, four minutes later.
This time Madrid was overrun on the left as Siqueira dribbled to the endline before crossing for Niguez to stun both his teammates and opponents with an acrobatic bicycle kick that sent the ball off the post and into the net.
Madrid needed 32 minutes to muster its first shot on goal, a harmless strike from Benzema, and Ancelotti sent on forward Jese Rodriguez for an ineffective Sami Khedira.
But Atletico went near a third goal on four occasions before Griezmann beat Raphael Varane to the far post where he tapped in Niguez’s headed pass in the 67th. Mandzukic then polished the result in the 89th when he headed in substitute Fernando Torres’ cross. Villarreal hosts Granada later, while Malaga visits Levante and Real Sociedad welcomes Celta Vigo.
City lose further ground
LONDON: Chelsea extended its Premier Leauge lead to seven points by beating Aston Villa 2-1 on Saturday while Manchester City was held to a 1-1 draw by Hull.Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic netted for Chelsea, either side of Jores Okore’s header for Villa.
City needed a last-minute free kick from James Milner to salvage a point at home to Hull after David Meyler had surprisingly put the visitors ahead in the first half. Elsewhere, Tottenham came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 in Saturday’s early game thanks to two goals from Harry Kane. Southampton’s Champions League push continued with a 1-0 win at Queens Park Rangers, while Crystal Palace beat Leicester 1-0 and Swansea drew 1-1 with Sunderland.
Eden Hazard put Chelsea ahead after only eight minutes when Oscar broke down the right and picked out Willian, who fed the ball to Hazard to score past United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Jores Okore equalized for Villa on 48 minutes with a free header from Carles Gil’s delivery, ending an astonishing 11-hour goal drought for Paul Lambert’s side. But the goal forced Chelsea to raise its performance and Villa was only on level terms for 18 minutes before Ivanovic rocketed in the winner.