Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things We Learned

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistMarch 2, 2014

Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things We Learned

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    Cristiano Ronaldo struck late in the game.
    Cristiano Ronaldo struck late in the game.Gabriel Pecot/Associated Press

    The latest edition of the Madrid derby was a thrilling affair that ended with both sides taking home a point.

    Diego Simeone's side came from behind to lead, but Cristiano Ronaldo's late strike ensured Carlo Ancelotti didn't leave empty-handed.

    The 2-2 result keeps Real Madrid at the top of the league, and Atletico will view it as a missed opportunity.

    Here are six conclusions from the match.

Diego Costa Isn't Quite Top Bracket

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    Missed opportunities: Diego Costa had several chances.
    Missed opportunities: Diego Costa had several chances.Gabriel Pecot/Associated Press

    There's no doubt that Diego Costa is a brilliant player. But at the moment, he just lacks the magic touch that would put him into the very top bracket.

    Sometimes he gets distracted by the battle going on around him and loses his focus on the matter at hand.

    With players like Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos and the infamous Pepe in Real Madrid's back line, Costa needed to keep his head on Sunday.

    His treatment wasn't as rough as it was in the Copa del Rey, but it still got him a little hot under the collar.

    Ramos fouled him early on, and he should have had a penalty, but after that, he produced a display of poor finishing. He dragged one shot wide of the near post in the first half, and in the second, he again missed the target when well placed.

    On top of that, he should have done better with a downwards header from a corner.

    Finally, he had a good opportunity in the second half when he beat Arbeloa and ran into the box, but Costa decided to go down under pressure from the Spaniard instead of staying on his feet.

    He was booked for diving, fairly by the referee, but if he had continued, he would have been in a good position to shoot.

The Refereeing Standard Is Poor

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    German Burgos had to be restrained.
    German Burgos had to be restrained.Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Spanish refereeing is not recognised as being particularly strong.

    But you would hope for the big occasion—in a pivotal game like this onethat it would at least be passable.

    Unfortunately, referee Carlos Delgado Ferreiro provided a display of incompetency.

    It started off badly when he should have booked Diego Costa for a clattering foul on Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

    Within minutes, it became significantly worse. Ferriero failed to award the Atletico striker a penalty when Sergio Ramos fouled him in the box. 

    Atletico assistant coach German Burgos was so incensed by one incident that he had to be restrained by manager Diego Simeone and other staff. The referee ultimately sent him off.

    One call that Ferreiro did get right was booking for Costa for diving, which he issued in the second half.

Madrid's Attacking Options Are Endless

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    On target: Karim Benzema opened the scoring.
    On target: Karim Benzema opened the scoring.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    The team that Carlo Ancelotti put out had a little bit of everything.

    The power of Cristiano Ronaldo, the pace of Angel Di Maria, the guile of Luka Modric.

    Throw in the world's most expensive player in Gareth Bale, red-hot hitman Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso pulling the strings from deep, and there's not much more you could ask for.

    Jese and Isco not being regular starters says it all about how much force Real Madrid have in that department.

    Only Bayern Munich can rival them when it comes to strength in attack depth.

Bale's Big-Game Blowout

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    Step it up: Gareth Bale (right) was anonymous.
    Step it up: Gareth Bale (right) was anonymous.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Gareth Bale has had a reasonable start to his Madrid career, but he needs to step up to the mark on the big stage.

    He made little impact at all against Atletico and was ineffective in the first meeting between these two sides.

    Against Barcelona, he was booked and then hooked in a 2-1 defeat for Los Blancos.

    His overall start to life in Spain has been decent, but at more than €100 million, he has to produce on occasions like these.

Ancelotti Was Better from the Bench Than Simeone

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    Carlo Ancelotti's substitutions were important.
    Carlo Ancelotti's substitutions were important.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Carlo Ancelotti's substitutions changed the game, but Diego Simeone made his too late.

    The Argentine's Atletico team was tired out, but he didn't have faith in his squad.

    It's a problem for Simeone, because while Madrid and Barcelona can call on massive players to come on and change the game, he has fewer options.

    Ancelotti, meanwhile, made two substitutions that changed the match.

    Bringing on Isco for Angel Di Maria gave his team extra impetus, while Daniel Carvajal, who came on for Alvaro Arbeloa, provided the cross that led to Cristiano Ronaldo's equaliser.

Atletico Aren't Good Enough to Win the Title

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    Koke scored Atletico's opener with a low drive.
    Koke scored Atletico's opener with a low drive.Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    This will probably seem like a controversial statement to make after Atletico nearly beat the title favourites.

    Both of their goals, from Koke and Gabi, respectively, were superb. 

    Diego Simeone's side are many things: well-organised, smart, cunning, able to mix it up when they need to.

    But they don't seem to have enough to get over the finish line first.

    Madrid's equaliser wasn't a surprise; you sensed it was coming.

    Atletico will probably have a huge part in deciding which of Madrid or Barcelona wins the title, but at the moment, they are reminiscent of Arsenal. They keep the pace at the top, but eventually, when the going gets tough, they will wilt at the crucial moment.

    And as mentioned, their squad depth isn't as strong as their rivals, as Simeone takes great pains to point out whenever he can.

    The neutrals would love to see them lift the title, but when it comes down to it, they just won't have enough in the tank.