All Real Madrid players, except for Modric and Casemiro, vacillated between being just good to being poor vs Atletico Madrid.
Real Madrid did not have a strategy in place to stop Atletico Madrid coming in from the wings and whipping in low, hard, dangerous crosses.
One of those crosses led to the only goal Atletico Madrid could score against Real Madrid from the many chances they created.
Rafa Benitez started with Carvajal on the right, Ramos and Varane in the center with Marcelo on the left. Carvajal got injured late in the first half and that saw Benitez bring in Mr.Utility Arbeloa at right back position.
Why did Benitez bring Ramos straight into a high intensity game like the one at Vicente Calderon is in one way, and only one way, understandable. He had no other choice. Even a back-from-injury Sergio Ramos is better than Nacho when it comes to derby games against Atletico Madrid.
So with a somewhat regular back four and a defensive midfielder in the form of Casemiro playing in front of the back four, why did Real Madrid let Atletico Madrid unlock them on numerous occasions until Atletico finally got through and secured a draw five minutes from time.
Here are the top five reasons:
Keylor Navas Was The Hero And The Villain
It started as early as the fifth minute of the game, Navas received a relatively easy pass from Marcelo and Navas got himself in trouble with a poor touch on the ball. Almost had the ball tackled from away for an open goal but he had the awareness to recognize his mistake and put the ball out for a corner.
You can only imagine what that would have done to the morale of the other ten players in such a hostile environment.
And that wasn’t even the end of it. Minutes later, Navas again couldn’t control a back pass. But this time it wasn’t as bad as the first time as Navas got away with ‘just’ a clearance which gave the ball away to Atletico Madrid.
This problem, of Navas’s control on the ball buckling under pressure, was pointed out several times at the start of the season. Navas has done little to prove otherwise.
With that said, it is also true that it is because of Navas that Real Madrid were able to, in the end, scrap out a draw against Atletico Madrid.
After Sergio Ramos’s effort, Atletico Madrid were awarded a penalty and Griezmann took it with utmost adeptness, only for Navas to guess right and save it with a strong left hand on the ball. It wasn’t a bad penalty by any means but it was a great save from Navas.
He has stopped two penalties now and that I think, must have put him above Casillas in terms of penalties saved for Real Madrid. If there was one thing Casillas was very average at, it was saving penalties.
He made another fantastic save, this time by pouncing on the ball at Torres’s feet and stopping him in his tracks.
But as was the case with almost all Real Madrid players, he was poor in the second half with his goal kicks (one which didn’t pick any height and almost landed at the feet of an Atletico Madrid attacker with Real Madrid team going the opposite way) and conceded a goal which, as a Real Madrid goalkeeper, he could’ve prevented by simply blocking the cross better either with his feet or hands. Amongst a host of mistakes, Navas’s was the last in conceding the goal from such a short range.
He did, somewhat, make up for it with another great save late in the second half after Bale had lost the ball on the counter attack which lead Atletico Madrid to a counter attack of their own.
Dani Carvajal Could Have Shown More Heart And Arbeloa Would Do Real Madrid A Favour By Moving Back To Liverpool
Carvajal didn’t have a bad game. He did, though, played only thirty nine minutes of it but it would be difficult to imagine Jackson (Atletico Madrid winger) beating Carvajal on the wing with pace considering that he had, actually, a race with Arbeloa on the right wing before whipping in a low hard cross that lead to the goal.
Carvajal looked dangerous from the first minute of the game. With him on the pitch, Real Madrid seemed to have a lot of options on both the wings. His low pass to Benzema inside the box was cleared awkwardly by Atletico defense and his deadly runs on the wings were very effective.
His dribbling ability enabled him to go past his man on the right wing and furnish Benzema with an electric service which lead to the only goal Real Madrid could have scored against Atletico Madrid on the night.
As was the norm for Real Madrid players, he did lose the ball couple of times. One was through a bad miscontrol of the ball which lead to a throw for Atletico and the other was because of an overhit long ball to Marcelo after Carvajal had made a penetrating run inside the wing on the right.
Was very lucky that the linesman called an offside on Torres who was through on goal even though Carvajal was playing him on. But that was probably because Carvajal is always so keen to go forward that he forgets to keep a good offside line with the other defenders.
His light feet and good change in direction of the ball while running earned Real Madrid a free kick on the right which was taken by Ronaldo, who put it over the bar. No news there.
And that was it for Carvajal as he went down in the thirty ninth minute of the game and called for a stretcher. Didn’t use it though.
On came the journeyman Arbeloa and to be fair to him, was pretty sturdy at the back for the remainder of the game until the goal.
And that goal pretty much summed it up on why should Real Madrid sell him as early as the next transfer windows provided they can find a replacement.
By replacement, I mean a player who can play on the right and on the left. And doesn’t mind warming the bench for most of his time.
Jackson, of Atletico, is by no means a fast player. But again, Arbeloa isn’t even close to fast and that cost Real madrid two points.
Jackson took on Arbeloa at first thought and went past him on the right down the flank and delivered a hard cross across the goal which Navas, amazingly, couldn’t stop.
The ball ended up right in the middle of the six yard box, begging Luciano Vietto to smash it into the back of the net.
And let’s not even mention how Atletico Madrid’s attack started, in leading up to the goal, because it was Arbeloa’s outlandish chop trick that was pounced on by Atletico to hit Real Madrid on the break.
After that, Arbeloa got himself a yellow card for a foul that was in bad taste on the right wing which angered Atletico Madrid.
Sergio Ramos Should Have Been Sent Off
He is developing a bit of a habit of committing naive fouls in dangerous positions, in big games. He is 29 now but he became the best red carded defender of all times at Real Madrid about four years ago by surpassing the great Fernando Hierro.
And Ramos didn’t leave much for the referee to send him off one more time either, but it seemed like the referee forgot to put a red card in his pocket before the match.
Before the penalty decision, Ramos was doing well for a comeback game. He had demonstrated great presence at the back and didn’t allow Torres to receive the ball and turn with it.
He closed down Atletico Madrid forwards very quickly and tackled them hard to let his presence known to all.
Even after the penalty decision, he regained his focus and carried on with the same vigor. Sadly, it only takes a solitary mistake to lose vital points in a derby game.
His tackles on Torres, though risky, were timed to perfection and Torres , for a good chunk of first half, was unable to receive the ball when it was played to him in space.
Atletico Madrid must have worked on this otherwise it is impossible that Ramos was almost invisible in the second half but for a clearance on the left back position (Marcelo was out of position somewhere in the midfield) and another clearance to save Real Madrid from another goal after Casemiro had slipped trying to maneuver the ball from a messy situation near the penalty area.
Varane Didn’t Commit Any Serious Mistake But Didn’t Do Enough To Stop The Goal
To be fair to him, he was isolated in the penalty area after Jackson had delivered his low cross for the goal. But as good a defender he is, one would have expected him to move a bit more quickly and close down Griezmann before his backheel pass by blocking the cross from Jackson.
Generally, he took good positions in front of Atletico Madrid attackers to block shots from ever reaching Navas.
Torres might have spinned him around with a ‘Ronaldo-chop’ in his own penalty box (the referee called it an offside when Carvajal was clearly playing him on) but Varane’s perfect positions for clearing numerous crosses in the penalty area were evident against Atletico Madrid.
Varane’s header-plus-blockshot combinations were spot on against an Atletico side that put Real Madrid under extreme pressure in the second half.
I don’t know if it has received the attention that it deserves but Varane’s aerial ability is almost too good to be true.
Too good for the referee at least as this is the second time in three games where Varane has been punished by the referee supposedly for obstructing the other player when in fact it is Varane’s superior jumping skill which allows him to climb all over the player who tries to compete with him on a air ball.
His astonishing diving header to defend a sharp cross into the box in the dying minutes of the game saved the day for Real Madrid and Rafa Benitez.
Pepe, is going to have a hard time getting into this back line but as always, he has a chance since Ramos is always in contention for a red card in any given game.
Marcelo is the best left back in the world. Going forward.
The amount of danger Marcelo creates in opponent’s box is mind boggling for a left back. There is simply no other left back in the world who comes close to his attacking prowess and his creativity in attacking positions.
But that aggressiveness comes at a heavy price of Marcelo not being able to defend properly. As a result, Real Madrid get stretched more often than they need to.
Atletico Madrid exploited it and other elite sides will definitely take advantage of that fact. Perhaps it would be better for Real Madrid to call back Coentrao or sign a new left back who can defend properly and use Marcelo as a left midfield player.
But it’s up to Benitez to think of an elaborate scheme to make that happen.
And it’s not that Marcelo can’t defend. It’s just his tendency of not paying attention to minor details on the pitch. In a rare instance against Atletico, Marcelo did actually block a cross by throwing his whole body in the line of fire.
But Kroos’s long ball flew way over his head on the left wing when he should have positioned himself to chest it down in front of him and he got caught out with a simple one two pass on the left wing when he himself lost the ball, in the second half, and Atletico went on to attack Real Madrid afterwards.
He was great in attack though. He closed down players with ease and switched the state of play from left to the right with a single pass to Carvajal.
His super dangerous cross to Ronaldo from the left wing was stopped only by a superb intervention from Oblak who came out boldly to collect the ball before Ronaldo got a head to it.
These kind of plays does make Marcelo special. His pairing with Ronaldo is one of the best in the world at the moment and against Atletico combined well with Modric to open up spaces behind their defensive wall.
Sergio Ramos filled in for Marcelo whenever he was caught out of position but he wouldn’t be able to do that consistently against good teams, who would actually count of Ramos to do that so it would open up space in the middle.
Real Madrid, with all the injuries and loaned out players, are short on players at the back. One more injury and it would be hard for Benitez to even line up four defenders, let alone choose a good one from the squad.