Real Madrid got a draw out of Atletico Madrid at Vicente Calderon and now sit level on points with Barcelona on fifteen with seven games played.
Well, Real Madrid is actually two positions above Barcelona because of superior goal difference. Atletico Madrid are now at the fifth spot, five points behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.
I think it is safe to assume that Benitez did get many things right in this match against Atletico. Conversely, he got some major decisions wrong.
The scary part is, how Atletico Madrid completely shut out Real Madrid in the second half. Benzema and Ronaldo looked non existent in the second half. When Bale did come on for Isco in the 65th minute, he followed the trend and remained absent for the remainder of the game.
Let’s have a look in depth:
Isco has been playing in La Liga for all of his professional career and has spent enough time at Real Madrid to not get affected by the pressure that comes when you play in a crucial game but maybe the occasion did get to him.
He didn’t look comfortable on the field. Couldn’t get himself into positions where he could receive the ball and actually, do something with it.
He was, as were all other three, absent from the game for most of the ninety minutes. I can’t even remember his last contribution in the game. I can’t remember his first either.
Perhaps his first real input in the game was he brilliantly controlled a rocket low pass from Carvajal on the right side of the penalty area and then had the wherewithal to pass it to Ronaldo who didn’t couldn’t much of it.
Perhaps the physicality of the game was too much for him. The one weakness he does have in his game is his temperament. He never plays well against teams that maintain a high intensity of football throughout the ninety minutes.
In the second half, Isco was reduced to just making runs for his teammates in order to open up some space at the front.
Benitez did replace him on the 65 minute mark and brought on Bale, which didn’t help either.
Coming into a game like this one is always difficult and especially when you have just recovered from a calf injury.
Bale had no chance to make any sort of impact on the game. He was slow and hesitant. Just like Isco, Bale did not have any meaningful contribution on the night.
He did make some runs here and there on the wings but was largely marked tightly and was closed down quicker than he would have liked.
Benitez did the right thing by taking off Isco but made a mistake in bringing on Bale. Vasquez or even Jesse would have been better alternatives for Bale. Bale likes to play with space and Atletico don’t give you any. Vasques, Cheryshev or even Jesse, are smaller in stature and hence more agile on their feet.
Thank goodness he scored the goal which gave Real Madrid a respectable draw against a side that has been tormenting Real Madrid for the past two seasons(or other words, ever since Simeone became Atletico Madrid’s manager).
He was somewhat of a threat in the first half and gradually withdrew from the game till he became nothing but a white shirt on the pitch.
At the start of the game, Benzema looked bright and energetic. Chested down a long ball in near Atletico’s box and almost had a chance on goal before Atletico Madrid goalkeeper came out and cleared the ball.
He met Carvajal wonder cross from the right with a devastating header which beat Atletico all ends up. Peeled off nicely from his marker very skillfully and finished the move off with great composure.
It was a simple finish in the end and made it 6 goals in six games for Karim Benzema, who is fast becoming a Europe’s top deadly penalty box predator.
His passing combinations with Ronaldo and Isco were as good as ever though Ronaldo wasted some moves with his, now, average dribbling skills.
His ability to take long balls on his chest (especially ones that were played from the back by the likes of Sergio Ramos) was instrumental against Atletico Madrid because Atletico players were covering the ground really well.
Karim showed his versatility on the field by first defending well from a corner and then breaking from the left hand side before the ball was put out of play from a desperate Atletico player’s challenge.
All of Benzema’s good work mysteriously went away in the second half. Atletico Madrid came out and marked the life out of Benzema. His only meaningful contributions in the second half were:
- Close control with a defender on his back snapping at his heels which ended up in a foul
- Some crisp passing with Ronaldo and Isco on counter attacks which didn’t lead to much as they got snuffed out pretty quickly by rigid Atletico Madrid defense.
Benzema was duly taken off on the 75th minute mark and Kovacic was brought on to replace him. Fifteen minutes is never enough to do anything on the pitch and Kovacic found it hard to even get into the game, let alone influence it.
Kovacic, with a lot of help from Modric and Casemiro, was able to thwart Atletico Madrid advances through consistent and solid tackling in the midfield area.
Ronaldo now has reached a point in his career that even when he does score goals, he scores goals that another hundred other strikers would be able to score. His consistency however is better than anyone else on the planet including Messi.
But he was poor against Atletico Madrid. Lost a lot of balls and didn’t make most of the chances that were presented to him in the final third of the pitch.
His dribbling skills have also taken a hit since his knee injury last year. I don’t know but I think he is still playing with some discomfort as he hasn’t had a sufficient period of rest since that injury.
Atletico Madrid had tied Ronaldo up on the left wing by marking him with at least two players at all times. Whenever he tried to dribble with the ball he was swarmed by Atletico shirts and lost the ball as a result.
The only area where he was able to make an impact was in the air. His aerial ability resulted in Real Madrid gaining possession several times from clearances made by Ramos and co.
The crowd booing him on every touch didn’t help his confidence either but he should be used to it by now, having endured anti-Ronaldo chants almost all his professional life.
His left foot shot from inside the penalty area that hit the near post netting showed that Ronaldo was not at his usual best against Atletico Madrid.
His powerful free kick from thirty five yards out went over the bar and that was about it as far as Ronaldo was concerned in the first half. I do hope that a day comes and Ronaldo scores from a free kick.
Ronaldo used to be a prolific free kick scorer in his early Real Madrid days but old age and a knee injury has caused to regress in that area as well.
Atletico Madrid had a clear strategy for Ronaldo and that was, whenever he runs with the ball, foul him. That made it difficult for Ronaldo to get into the flow of things even when he did combine with Marcelo on the left wing. One of his crosses from the left did result in a corner but one expects more, a lot more, from Ronaldo.
The second half was a continuation of the first half for Ronaldo. He took a left foot shot inside the penalty area from the left hand side that hit the side netting and moments later got fouled on the left wing.
He lost the ball again on a break which demonstrated that as far as dribbling goes, he is a shadow of his former self.
For the last twenty minutes of the game Ronaldo (along with Bale) were totally out of the game.
Overall, Ronaldo had a poor game. His dribbling ability, for whatever reason, has taken a huge hit since his knee injury and now with his pace also fading away, he is finding it hard to influence games as he used to.
A draw is not a poor result, especially against a side like Atletico Madrid who play at such a high intensity. What is poor (and rather horrifying) is the number of chances Real Madrid created.
Atletico Madrid came out in the second half and completely shut down Real Madrid’s attack and hence was able to put so much pressure on Real Madrid defense that it finally buckled in the 85th minute of the game.