With Atletico Madrid looking for a third straight win at Santiago Bernabeu, a Modric inspired albeit lucky Real Madrid put three past the league leaders to put one feet firmly in the Copa del Rey final. In what turned out to be an expectedly heated affair, Carlo Ancelotti’s men taught their ‘cousins’ from Madrid a firm lesson in the art of football and that of warfare.
A third consecutive derby defeat for Real Madrid would have set the alarm bells ringing loudly at Bernabeu. Though Atletico Madrid entered the game with a slight advantage over Real due to their domestic record, Simeone’s players unfortunately turned out to be ‘all sound and no fury’. While both teams indulged in nasty tackles, play-acting and unsporting behaviour, it was Real Madrid who did not forget to play good football along with the antics.
With Bale ruled out, Ancelotti started with the Ronaldo, Di Maria and Jese behind Benzema with Alonso and Modric managing the centre midfiled. Dominating the game right from the start, Real Madrid kept good possession in the midfield while Ramos and Pepe kept Raul Garcia and Diego Costa at bay. Led by Modric, Jese and Di Maria, Real Madrid put in a great team performances as the trio stole the show at Santiago Bernabeu. With Ronaldo unusually subdued throughout the match, it was Di Maria and Jese who were making things difficult for Atletico as they effectively used their pace, dribbling abilities and vision to tear apart Atletico’s defence. Cutting past defenders and linking up well with Modric and Alonso, Jese and Di Maria had the crowd on its feet with their performances.
On the other hand Atletico Madrid found themselves extremely disoriented as they failed to link up well in the midfield. Atletico’s only chance in the first half came as Arda Turan met a good cross from Raul Garcia but the header was far too easy to beat Iker Casillas at goal. Though Koke and Diego impressed with their work rate and interceptions, Costa found himself cut out from his team as he spent more time agonizing on the ground. The striker and Real’s defenders were constantly at odds with both Pepe and Diego Costa earning a yellow card each. This means that Simeone will be without the services of his leading goal-scorer after the striker picked up three yellow cards in the tournament.
Keeping possession and winning several corners, Real Madrid finally broke the deadlock in the 17th minute as Modric’s pass found Pepe in acres of space just outside the box. The defender hit the ball firmly but it was a lucky deflection from Insua that beat Courtois for Real Madrid to draw the first blood.
The second half picked up from where it left, with Real Madrid dominating the game thoroughly and enjoying good spells of possession. Though the game kept being interrupted with nasty tackles and players rolling around on the pitch, it was Di Maria who once again proved instrumental as he picked out a brilliant pass for Jese who put the ball past Courtois to double Real’s lead in the 57th minute. Firmly in the driver’s seat, Real kept pressing Atletico as Jese, Di Maria, Modric and Alonso dictated the pace of the game. Playing well from the back, Atletico’s offense was nullified by Pepe and ramos who proved to be on top of their game.
After a few more promising chances, the Los Blancos further increased their lead after Di Maria’s relatively weak shot was once again deflected past Courtois. While Atletico could be excused for feeling cheated by their lady luck, it was pretty clear that Simeone’s side had failed miserably at the Bernabeu. Their only decent chance came from a corner that was cleared from the lines by Modric who had been outstanding for the Whites.
Talking to the press after the match, Carlo Ancelotti hailed Madrid’s performance as one of the best since his arrival.
“I think it was (the best performance). Above all because the team we were facing is a very difficult team to play against. They are very strong and aggressive, so I thought we played very well.”
“I am completely satisfied. We did everything well, we moved the ball with pace and were very aggressive without it. I wish the team could always play like they did tonight.”
Di Maria admitted that Real Madrid far outweighed Atletico Madrid in terms of creating chances and intensity. He saluted Jese’s performance but did not sound complacent accepting that there was still a second leg to be played.
Meanwhile Atletico’s manager, Diego Simeone conceded that Real Madrid had luck on their side in the first leg.
“I think Real Madrid played very well, but they scored twice with shots that hit our players on the body and went in. It is a very favourable result for the opponent, but apart from that there is nothing I can draw from the game at the moment.”
“We still have 90 minutes to play and anything can happen in football.”
Without the services of Diego Costa and possibly David Villa (injured), it will be interesting to see how Atletico manage to stage a comeback against Real Madrid in the second leg.