Arda Turan came off the bench to supply a precise finish and give Atlético Madrid local bragging rights once more thanks to a 2-1 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. The latest edition of what has become a frequent and frequently fierce derby looked headed for a draw entering the final 15 minutes, before Atlético’s Turkish playmaker capped a fine move to give the league champions an important early win and send Madrid to their second straight defeat.
Madrid may have triumphed dramatically in the Champions League final in May, but they continue to have to face up to the fact that they now have a seriously competitive local rivalry. Just three weeks after Atlético won at the Bernabeu to lift the Spanish Super Cup, they did so again to provide a further statement that their La Liga triumph was no one-season wonder. With coach Diego Simeone absent from the sidelines, Atlético had to weather a heavy storm for much of the first half after Tiago had predictably taken advantage of Madrid’s slack set-piece defending early on.
Cristiano Ronaldo soon won and converted a penalty and looked set to run roughshod over an unusually vulnerable-looking Atlético team that surprisingly featured young Mexican Raúl Jiménez up front alongside Mario Mandzukic. But, helped by goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Moyà, the visitors survived until half-time and then coped comfortably with a diminished Madrid in the second half. And, despite the vast gulf in finances, Atlético had the better options to come on and change the game, with one of them, Turan, doing just that and again exposing the much-discussed lack of balance in Real Madrid’s midfield.
Both clubs came into the first derby of the league season but seventh of 2014 having already disappointingly dropped points this campaign, with Atlético Madrid opening with a goalless draw against Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid being beaten 4-2 by Real Sociedad last time out. And with both undergoing considerable changes over the summer, there remained a sense of the unknown about how they would fare.
Yet one thing that was eminently predictable was that one of the best sides at attacking set-pieces would have success against a team that had had repeated trouble defending them. It took just 10 minutes for that to be borne out. From Koke’s delivery, several Madrid players failed to clear at the near post, allowing Tiago to head in from barely six yards out, with Iker Casillas rooted to his line.
Madrid responded well to going behind, though, and were soon the dominant force. The otherwise quiet Gareth Bale crossed for James Rodríguez to volley into ground and over the crossbar, before the Welshman’s deflected free-kick forced a superb one-handed save from Moyà. It was Ronaldo who was doing the Real damage, though, with new Atlético left-back Guillherme Siqueira on the receiving end of the Portuguese’s brilliance. Ronaldo lured Siqueira into brining him down in the box with a clumsy trip, before dispatching a penalty to bring Madrid level after 26 minutes and swing the momentum strongly in their favor.
The hosts really should have been in front at the break. Hindered by the absence of their usual pace going forward coupled with a lack of creativity, Atlético were repeatedly seeing moves break down and then being caught by Madrid’s lightning counter-attacks. From perhaps the best of those, Ronaldo laid the ball square into the path of Benzema, who had a clear sight of goal but produced a horrid first touch to invite incredibly harsh boos from a section of his own fans. Benzema was more unfortunate minutes later when, again from a Ronaldo pass, he headed powerfully at goal but was denied by more Moyà brilliance.
While there were no changes from Atlético at half time, they were much better able to stem the tide of attacks from a Real Madrid team which went surprisingly flat after the interval. While recent loan arrival from Manchester United Javier Hernández came on from his debut, it was Atlético that had more game-changers to call upon. Around the hour point Turan replaced defensive-midfield stalwart Gabi, in a bold decision that was soon rewarded.
With Rodríguez pulling the strings ahead of quality ball-playing midfielders Toni Kroos and Luka Modric and behind the famed BBC trio, Madrid can undeniably on occasion look irresistible going forward. But going the other way they remain far too vulnerable. And the absence of the balance provided by the now departed Ángel di María and Xabi Alonso was only too evident in Atlético Madird’s winning goal. Another Atlético substitute, Griezmann, played a significant role, showing some fine skill before playing it onto Juanfran down the right. The ever-reliable full-back’s cross found a vacant hole where a Madrid midfielder should have been and, after Raul Garcia cleverly stepped over the ball, Turan dispatched it first-time past the dive of Casillas.