For lovers of the beautiful game, this latest clash between the tetchy, spiky working-class urchins from the wrong side of town (Atletico, cliché No. 1) against the cultured, refined, sophisticated, lords of the manor (Real Madrid, cliché No. 2) had just about everything.
Passion, skill, skullduggery, aggression, defensive errors, refereeing cock-ups and post-match recriminations—in fact just another day at the office in the battle for football’s bragging rights in Spain’s capital city.
Keen to inflict their first league double victory over Real since the 1950-51 season, the home side took their eye off the ball when they allowed Karim Benzema to sneak in and silence the home crowd after just three minutes.
What followed was an Atletico that, following a shaky patch, finally returned to doing what they do best: high pressure and aggressive, in-your-face football, combined with the silky skills of Arda Turan, who was soon running the show.
And with that of course, outrageous demonstrations of gamesmanship and play-acting that just add fuel to the fire of soccer’s detractors, as well as some "traditional" refereeing, bereft of any form of logic.
It was the same for both sides, and despite Atletico’s "everybody hates us" attitude—more on that later—bad behaviour and incompetence were fairly well shared between the two sides. The referee, Carlos Delgado Ferreiro, must have been the only person on the entire planet that didn’t think Sergio Ramos’s tackle on Diego Costa was a penalty, but at least he demonstrated a consistent level of incompetence when he failed to see Gabi clearly handle in the area following a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick.
Pepe went down as if he’d been hit by a sledgehammer as he did his utmost to get Godin red-carded, while in the second half Raul Garcia also performed the dying swan act after a fair tackle from Ramos.
In between the two penalty incidents came Atletico’s two goals, the first a clinical strike from Koke following a clever ball from Turan, and the second a stunning, 35-yard strike from Gabi that flew in past Diego Lopez, who might just feel that he could have done better.
Another bizarre decision from Senor Delgado was just what was needed to get the now almost obligatory touchline melee underway, and after Diego Costa was inexplicably yellow-carded (presumably for diving following a tussle with Alvaro Arbeloa) the amply proportioned, member of the Atletico coaching staff, Mono Burgos—a man who, incidentally, once threatened to tear Jose Mourinho’s head off—was red carded.
Lopez was not alone however in not having his best day at work. Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric were also off colour, as was Angel di Maria, who should have been nearer Koke for Atlético's opener.
And what of the coaches? Ancelotti got it right eventually, but only after going in 2-1 down at the interval. Instead of picking a team to control the game, he picked a conservative lineup with two defensive full-backs, although to be fair he corrected the error when he replaced Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao with the more attack-minded Dani Carvajal and Marcelo.
Only after he had done this and brought on an invigorated Isco for an out-of-sorts Di Maria did Real begin to get to grips with the game against an Atletico side that was now visibly tiring by the minute. It came as no surprise when, after a period of sustained pressure, Ronaldo was on hand to hit home his side’s equaliser.
As for Simeone, his decision to use just one substitute in the 83rd minute has to be questioned. I find it difficult to see how he would not put on Villa, Diego or Sosa, especially when it was clear to all, that some of his players looked out on their feet. What those players must be feeling is anybody’s guess.
And then of course there’s the press conference, another chance to stoke the fire.
Ancelotti got the ball rolling with his claim that Atletico had been ‘violent’, something that not even the Real players agreed with.
"We tried to play but it wasn't easy because Atlético played a very rough game," Ancelotti said, according to RealMadrid.com. "…They tried to impose a violent game. We don't play like that. We tried to play and in the end we did it."
Simeone than retorted by saying that although some people might get upset, Atletico were still very much competing, and Filipe Luis also chipped in with more absurdities when he claimed that some people don’t like to see Atletico up there.
"The result is what it is; we're still alive," Simeone said, per Sid Lowe of The Guardian. "We are still alive. That will annoy some people, but we're still alive."
All part and parcel of what makes for your typical full-blooded Madrid derby.
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