What Los Blancos did correctly in the derby stalemate…
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid canceled each other out as the Madrid derby ended all-square again, with Antoine Griezmann pulling the visitors level just minutes after Cristiano Ronaldo’s breakthrough.
Both sides went for a victory, as it was quite evident from the early exchanges. Los Blancoslaunched an all-out assault with high pressing, while the Rojiblancos posed the threat on the counter.
Even if neither of the teams really had any scope in the title race, a victory for the visitors would’ve at least kept the gap with leaders Barcelona from widening. But the Whites didn’t let that happen, who threw everything at them in search of the local bragging rights.
Here’s what Real Madrid got right in the derby draw.
#1 Making a statement of intent
Real Madrid were coming off the back of an important Champions League clash and have the second leg of the same coming up in the next 3 days. The stress levels were as high as it could get. But, they showed nerves of steel.
Not only did the Blancos start the game on the front foot, but also pushed for a winner in the final moments despite completely comprehensive about the circumstances right now. That was a clear statement of intent from the hosts.
A victory would’ve in fact, put Barcelona on the brink of the championship. But little did they heed to. They held nothing back. Pulled no punches. Real Madrid fought for the 3 points, and the local bragging rights.
This spirit, alone, deserves credit and showed why they are the European champions in the first place.
#2 Playing Ronaldo
There were speculations over Cristiano Ronaldo starting the match given the important Juventus clash on Wednesday. Even if Real Madrid held a healthy advantage going into the second leg, Zidane would want his No.7 to be fit and firing for the home stretch of the campaign.
But, he decided to play Ronaldo, and was rewarded for the same. The Portuguese stalwart was a huge presence in the box, testing Oblak early on with a close range effort. A 100% shot accuracy and 87% pass accuracy testifies the danger he alone carried. And before trudging off, made sure he bagged another goal when he clinically connected with a cross from Bale.
Starting Ronaldo, despite all the risks, did pay though. Given the finishing touch that the Merengues lacked yesterday, his presence helped greatly in that regard and at least salvaged a point from the match.
#3 Starting XI changes
Real Madrid entered the tie with as many as four changes to the line-up that started in Turin earlier in the week. Luka Modric, Casemiro, Isco and Karim Benzema all dropped to the bench, whereas Bale was given a rare full 90 minutes to trod the pitch.
Whilst that was quite expected of the French gaffer, it was a bold move from him and did pay off to a large extent in the end. The home team not only avoided a defeat, but also gave their creative engines a much-needed rest, before coming on only in the final few minutes which was more like a warm-up to what’s coming in the midweek.
Zidane may appear to have his legs in two different boats, but he knows exactly what he’s doing. And did so with aplomb here in the derby.
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