Match Report: Atletico Madrid 0-0 Real Madrid
Champions League quarter-final first leg, Vicente Calderon
Ninety big minutes await at the Santiago Bernabeu next week after Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid battled out a stalemate in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday night.
In a match that was a repeat of last season’s final, Madrid were the better team but could not make their numerous opportunities to bag a valuable away goal count as Jan Oblak produced an inspired performance in the Atleti goal.
Madrid’s performance was a huge improvement to the one they produced two months ago at the Calderon when they suffered derby humiliation in a 4-0 defeat to Diego Simeone’s men but that was not enough to stop a run of seven matches this season without victory against their city rivals.
Atleti rarely threatened Iker Casillas in the visiting goal but they did finish the match with a flourish and Madrid can also be thankful that the referee did not spot a punch from Dani Carvajal on Mario Mandzukic midway through the second half.
It leaves everything to play for when the sides lock horns again next Wednesday at the Bernabeu for a spot in the semi-finals.
There were few surprises in Ancelotti’s line-up, although Raphael Varane was given the nod ahead of Pepe, who is yet to return to 100 per cent fitness, while Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez returned from suspension, with the latter being preferred to Isco in the middle.
For Atleti, Mandzukic started alongside Antoine Griezmann in attack, with Fernando Torres, whose goals knocked Madrid out of the Copa del Rey, left on the bench.
Los Blancos were overawed in the league match in February but they took the game by the scruff of the neck in the opening exchanges. Ancelotti had called for courage and intensity and he got it in spades.
Gareth Bale found himself with a golden opportunity to score an early away goal when he was one-on-one with Oblak but saw his effort saved. It was the first of many from the Slovenian shot-stopper on the night.
Atleti tried mainly to hit their visitors on the counter but their plan did not work. Instead, they afforded Madrid more space than usual to exploit and Carvajal in particular did just that down the right.
Bale had a long-range shot sting the hands of Oblak later in the first half while Cristiano Ronaldo saw a couple of decent free-kick opportunities come and go as the chances continued to come in favour of Madrid.
Atleti were even failing from their favoured set-pieces and one loose cross allowed Varane to surge down field on the counter attack and eventually James saw a curling effort saved by the busy Oblak.
Madrid had ten shots in the first half and more than 60 per cent of the possession but they could not make it count.
Tempers heightened in the second half, especially between Mandzukic and the Madrid defence. The Croatian was on the end of a heavy but fair challenge from Ramos and also clashed with Varane before Carvajal was spotted swinging a punch at him. Luckily for Madrid the referee did not spot the incident.
Kroos fired a long-range effort straight into the arms of Oblak but perhaps Madrid’s best chance came when Marcelo wriggled free of two markers before cutting the ball back to Benzema, who opted to pass to Ronaldo instead of shoot and the Atleti defence eventually managed to scramble the ball clear.
The hosts upped their tempo in the latter stages and Casillas had to be alert to deny Mario Suarez before substitute Alvaro Arbeloa got in the way of another effort.
On top of failing to bag an away goal, the only blot on Madrid’s copybook was a yellow card to Marcelo that rules him out of the second leg.
Atletico: Oblak, Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Siqueira, Turan, Gabi, Suarez, Koke, Griezmann, Mandzukic. Subs: Moya, Tiago, Raul Garcia, Saul, Gamez, Torres, Gimenez.
Madrid: Casillas, Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, James, Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo. Subs: Navas, Pepe, Khedira, Isco, Arbeloa, Jese, Illarramendi.