114 years sharing the same city. Two hundred and 66 duels between both teams on every official competition. Three straight seasons facing each other in UEFA Champions League. Madrid continues to be the capital of football thanks to the passion and high level displayed in the Madrid Derby. Both Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid faced each other once again for the fourth straight time in the past four seasons in Champions League. The fourth round was not any different from the previews three. History still is an important factor in European competitions.
Real Madrid 3-0 Atlético de Madrid
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modrić; Isco, Benzema, Ronaldo. (4-3-3)
Atlético de Madrid: Oblak; Hernández, Savić, Godín, Luís; Koke, Gabi, Saúl, Carrasco; Griezmann, Gameiro. (4-4-2)
Real Madrid got on the pitch with the mission of making sure that everyone understood why they have won 11 Champions League trophies. This is a team that knows how to deliver in these stages of this competition. Listening to the Champions League anthem in the Santiago Bernabéu feels natural. Especially, knowing that this is Real Madrid’s seventh straight season playing in the semifinals.
First Half: Move, Isco, Move!
The first 10 minutes of the game were controlled by Real Madrid. Isco, Toni Kroos, and Luka Modrić gave a constant fluidity to the ball movement. The first half was full of quick ball recovery and triangle plays by the hosts. Let’s take into account Isco’s performance in the first half. He plays better once he has more freedom to alternate positions and band together with the nearest teammate. His short and quick passes let Real Madrid approach the open gaps left by Atlético in their half of the pitch. Isco completed 59 out of 60 passes in this game, per fourfourtwo.com.
It was strange that Atlético did not apply their typical high pressure that they use early in this type of games. This was evidently a factor. Forcing Kevin Gameiro to drop back to the midfield line affected Atlético’s attacking game. They wanted to depend on the speed of Gameiro, Yannick Carrasco, Saúl Ñíguez and Antoine Griezmann on the counter-attacks. It did not work thanks to the defensive work by Real Madrid on transition. The man-to-man marking was exceptional. Griezmann looked so distant and far from his teammates while being trap between Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane.
The first goal came in the 10th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo beat Stefan Savić on the jump to get the ball sent by Casemiro through the right side of the box. Ronaldo scored the header. The first highlight of his magical night. Minutes after the goal, Keylor Navas was the protagonist of one of the most pivotal moments in this game. In an Atlético’s attack, Koke sent a well-measured through-pass to Gameiro. Navas anticipated the pass perfectly and made the clearance successfully. This ended up as the only good chance created by Atlético throughout the whole game.
Another important detail of this game was the work done by Real Madrid full-backs. Marcelo and Dani Carvajal – unfortunately, he was replaced by Nacho due to an injury – were magnificent every time they advanced lines, associated with their teammates through triangles and sent crosses to the box.
Second Half: 100 Goals Are Not Enough For Ronaldo
The second half did not have the same fast-paced rhythm from the first half. Mainly because of Atlético’s lack of willingness to propose something different on the attacking side. They made it seemed like being down 0-1 on the road was a good result for them. Even Real Madrid had the chance to slow down their game for a little bit. Midfielders continued their fluent passing game. Isco’s constant switching and pass accuracy were the highlights of the first half – he only played 68 minutes. But Kroos’s efficacy was the X-factor in the entire game. Kroos completed 100 out of 104 passes in the entire game, per fourfourtwo.com.
In the 73rd minuted, Atlético paid for their conservative approach. Karim Benzema is a player who has been criticized this season for his lack of goals. Fourteen goals in all competitions – five of those 14 goals in eleven Champions League games. But his performance goes beyond the simple goal/assist stat. Benzema normally allows his teammates to have more working space. He drops back and plays as the false “9” of the team when the game asks for it. He was not having a great impact in the game until the 73rd minute. That was when he dragged Savić and Diego Godín in the edge of the middle part of the box. He turned his back and assisted Ronaldo. Filipe Luís almost got a piece of it, but he could not stop that pass. The ball got an effect that elevated it. Ronaldo scored the projectile-like volley.
Benzema was replaced by Lucas Vázquez four minutes after the second goal. If Vázquez were an NBA player, he will probably be the candidate for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. His ability to easily control the tempo of the game once he comes out of the bench is impressive. In fact, that is what he did nine minutes after he got on the pitch.
Vázquez and Marco Asensio – who replaced Isco in the 68th minute – gave a fresher look to their team once they got on the pitch. Both players provide quickness, dribbling skills, football IQ and passing accuracy to Real Madrid. Vázquez used his velocity to beat defenders while he drove the ball deeply through the right wing. He dragged enough rivals to give Ronaldo enough space to receive the ball, measure the shot and score the third and final goal of the game.
This was Ronaldo’s seventh hat-trick in Champions League, according to OptaJoe. Ronaldo’s hunger to break records is out-worldly. Eight goals in his last three Champions League games. Ten goals this season and 103 goals overall in Champions League. His legacy continues its non-stop growth.