Atlético Madrid – Real Madrid: Rivals Repeat The Rollercoaster Ride (4-2, After Extra Time)
Mimicking the madness from the most recent contest of Madrid’s best clubs would be nearly impossible. In the end, the two outfits did a formidable job. Two fewer goals but no less action, some stellar solo plays, and the grit to compete contributed to another show for the observer.
Tactical analysis and match report by Emmanuel Adeyemi-Abere.
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Eight days after an eight goal edition of the derby, red-blue and white divisions went to war again for further glory in cup competition. Would the neutrals see a second spectacle back on Spanish shores?
Real Madrid reigned supreme in Riyadh and succeeded in style in the final, rolling over the Catalan champions in retribution for defeat in 2023. Seven successes in a row from the middle of last month signal a free flowing unit that knows what it takes to win. Belief stands the squad in good stead for the second half of the season, and the defense of the title that earned them the right to go to Saudi Arabia.
Answers from Atlético Madrid to the critique of their manager have not arrived yet on the field. Diego Simeone has one of the most feared forward pairings in Europe, but the foundation of his work, the art of defense, has somewhat crumbled. The concession of ten goals in their last five games speaks to this development, and a mere two victories since the end of November is ultimately a cause for concern.
Simeone saw it fit to switch one member from the starting eleven he picked last week. Axel Witsel stepped back into the center of the defense and replaced Stefan Savić. Samuel Lino lined up on the left of the rearguard, and Marcos Llorente stayed as the right wing-back instead of Rodrigo Riquelme, so Saúl Ñíguez, Koke, and Rodrigo de Paul remained in the middle of the park. Antoine Griezmann, who has now become the club’s all time top scorer, and Álvaro Morata spearheaded at the front.
Carlo Ancelotti continues to rotate his midfield magicians. Toni Kroos and Aurélien Tchouaméni dropped to the bench. They made way for Luka Modrić and Eduardo Camavinga. Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde were the other two pieces in the quartet. Andriy Lunin, who had come in for Kepa in the final of the Supercopa da España, held onto his spot between the posts. Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy flanked the pair of Antonio Rüdiger and Nacho, who sat at the heart of the back four.
Know your enemy
No matter the number of goals, these two teams have typically battled in closely fought encounters. An even share of the ball split between the outfits ,and neither was remarkably better before the break.
Modrić was on the right of midfield, but the away team aligned in their usual 4-4-2 formation. Their opponents again exercised the ability to play out from the back, but the flow in the final third was loose. Many long balls and switches missed the connection with the wing-backs while Griezmann tried to stitch the play together from the center. Most of all, it was notable how Real’s defense (with its tighter central defenders) handled aerial attacks, unlike at the end of September, and gave up little.
Atlético were attentive to the danger in their half of the pitch. But Bellingham, Rodrygo, and Vinícius Júnior would not be quiet forever. Slaloming through bodies in the 11th minute, Bellingham blasted the bar, and twice, Vinícius could not convert from close range— once after assisting his compatriot with a dinked pass. The better openings fell their way, but the hosts made the initial breakthrough.
34th minute: offensive sequence from Real Madrid. Rüdiger clears a deflected cross and Bellingham brushes off Koke. Vinícius drifts to the left and Bellingham connects, dribbling up the field before finding his teammate. Vinícius slides the ball back to his teammate and Bellingham earns a free kick.
De Paul received a layoff from Griezmann and clipped a cross into the penalty area. Rüdiger strained to cut the connection with Saúl, but his attempt at a clearance fell to the feet of Lino. The wing-back bounced an effort beyond Lunin. A more blatant blunder at the other end leveled the score. Modrić whipped a free kick into the penalty area, and Jan Oblak climbed over Saúl to claim control of the situation. However, the goalkeeper would be guilty of another blunder: the ball bounced off his fist and dropped into the back of his net. At the stroke of half time, the visitors had canceled the deficit.
Griezmann grabs a hold
Griezmann endeavored to be the difference maker at the start of the second half. He roamed towards the right side to instigate, striding forward to follow on from his pass to Llorente and enter the box. Camavinga cut out the return, deflecting into the path of Lunin. The goalkeeper got low to the floor and palmed at the loose ball but pushed it straight into Rüdiger. For the second time in just over a week, the defender caught himself in a crisis at the back— and Morata slotted into the empty net.
The goal illustrated shifts in the structure of Simeone’s men. Griezmann dropped out to the right more often, Morata moved over to the left; Nahuel Molina added thrust as the right wing-back, and Llorente pushed into the middle of the park. More associative play featured in phases, and the guests needed to respond. Just past the hour mark, Ancelotti brought on two players. Camavinga filled in as a left back, Kroos replaced his fellow veteran Modrić, and Brahim Díaz entered the fray on the right of midfield.
66th minute: offensive sequence from Atlético Madrid. Griezmann had dropped outwards to the right, Camavinga increased ball pressure and Atlético combine in close quarters to escape. Griezmann then advances away from Camavinga, attracting attention from Rüdiger and Morata slides slightly to his left. Since Nacho was close to Llorente, once de Paul shakes off Camavinga, he can break the lines.
Tchouaméni took the place of Valverde and, in the final ten minutes of the allotted time, Rodrygo came off for Joselu. He answered Ancelotti’s prayers. Within moments of his entry, he had scored. Vinícius drove at the defense from the left of the box, feeding Bellingham. His teammate lifted the ball to the far post, where Joselu headed home a second equalizer. Half an hour of action was in stall.
Too much, too soon
Atlético had sunk further back before the end of the second half and might have feared another goal. But, for once, Real’s rally was too urgent and conceded crucial momentum once the play restarted.
Ancelotti: "We didn't need to force some plays too much. We have to improve there. It was a sin of youth." pic.twitter.com/zksdh22j43— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐝𝐫𝐢𝐝 𝐓𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬 (@_MadridTimes) January 19, 2024
In the 100th minute, Camavinga pushed a long line pass to Vinícius, whom Molina pursued. The ball broke away from the Brazilian, and Atlético could switch gears to transition. Griezmann grabbed possession and darted forward, dribbling to his right, where he could survey the situation. Vinícius hustled back and nailed the talisman to the line. But with balance and poise, he steered the course and rifled a strike into the top corner of the net. The hosts had restored the advantage at their fortress.
Two final substitutes saw time on the field from the white camp. Tchouaméni dropped into the middle of the back four, Fran García replaced Camavinga as the left back, and Dani Ceballos joined Kroos in the midfield. An offside ruling chalked Ceballos’ goal off in the second half of extra time, and the last laugh went to Atlético in the dying embers. Molina flew forward from the right and released Memphis Depay; the forward assisted the advancing Riquelme to rattle a fourth past Lunin. It was game over.
Simeone shrugged off the idea that Atlético Madrid had been out for revenge. However, this victory might mark a meaningful moment in their campaign on reflection. The exit of their city rivals, the title holders, and one of the best teams in the land from the competition is not just a case of bragging rights but also boosts their bid for a trophy for the first time in three years. Additional rest aided their cause in extra time, and the manager will be glad the fruits of his players’ labor blossomed on this occasion.
If the thrashing in the final in Riyadh was proof that people should expect Real Madrid to manage the big moments, then this defeat will be even more of a bitter blow. One less piece of silverware can adorn the club cabinet, and how this tie slipped out of their hands frustrated Ancelotti. It will mark a learning curve for their rising stars, but as only their second loss in the last five months, expectations of achievement should not drop. Their top spot tussle with Girona in LaLiga resumes on the weekend.
Match plots will be added as soon as possible.