La Liga is one of the most exciting football leagues in Europe at the moment, but what happened at the first Madrid derby 2015 – 2016, was the outcome as expected? By all accounts, Real Madrid should be dominating the Spanish La Liga right now. After all, FC Barcelona are in crisis. Lionel Messi is out for two months, and an ongoing FIFA transfer ban has left the team in crisis. And even though Barca still have Neymar and Luis Suarez, they’ve shown weakness with a handful of losses in recent weeks. Add the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have both been playing great football this season, and the Vikings should be as far ahead in the La Liga as Bayern Munich are in the Bundesliga.
Somehow, though, Real Madrid aren’t even in the lead. In fact, Villarreal are holding down the top spot in Spanish soccer after eight weeks of play, and Real have stumbled to two lukewarm draws in a row. Who knows: the 2015 – 2016 La Liga could end up being a much wider open contest than just about anyone was anticipating back in August.
Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid: A Recent History
Sunday, October 4th was something of a special occasion for the La Liga, bringing about the first Madrid derby game of the year. The game was an exciting moment for Madrid football fans, largely because head-to-head contests between these two great teams have been anything but predictable in recent years.
The 2013 – 2014 season was an especially great microcosm of just how evenly matched Madrid’s two soccer clubs can be. Atletico had the edge in La Liga features, winning one of the head-to-head matches and forcing a draw in the other. The Mattress Makers went on to win the La Liga title that season, for the first time since 1996. Between the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, though, Real Madrid managed three big wins against Atletico that season. And still, after the Champions League, Atletico Madrid turned around to beat Real in the Super Cup.
The constant push and pull continued last season as well. The Mattress Makers won both head-to-head fixtures in the La Liga and ousted Real from the Copa del Rey. The Vikings, on the other hand, eliminated Atletico from the Champions League and took the higher placement on the domestic league table.
A Battle of a Match
In other words, it’s never easy to predict the outcome of a Madrid football derby. Sunday’s game was no different. Real Madrid grabbed the advantage early on when Karim Benzema scored a goal just seven minutes into regulation. But the match was competitive from the get-go, with the two soccer clubs splitting possession more or less down the middle.
Atletico Madrid had a golden opportunity to equalize at the 22-minute mark when Real’s Sergio Ramos got a yellow card for taking a reckless lunge at Atletico midfielder Tiago. The foul earned the home team a penalty kick, which Antoine Griezmann took. But a beautiful save from Keilor Navas kept the Vikings in the lead.
Griezmann wasn’t the only one being denied during this particular game. Cristiano Ronaldo had several dangerous attacks during the first half but sent two sailing over the goal in the space of five minutes toward the end of the first half. It was uncharacteristically so-so game for the Portuguese great, and that fact alone helped the Mattress Makers considerably.
Most of the second half was no more eventful in terms of scoring, but it was eventful in terms of fouls. Indeed, the refs handed out 10 yellow cards during this particular derby match, eight of which occurred in the second half.
Despite having their impressive offense rebuffed at nearly every turn, Real Madrid still looked like they were going to scoop up a win. With 10 minutes left on the clock, Benzema’s early goal still stood as the only point on the board. That all changed at the 84-minute mark, though, when 21-year-old attacker Luciano Vietto equalized the score for Atletico. The point stands as Vietto’s very first goal for the Mattress Makers, as the Argentine striker transferred in from Villarreal this summer. Vietto has only clocked 131 minutes at Atletico so far, but you can bet that this key goal might make him a more regular presence in the coming weeks.
Vietto’s goal equalized the score and forced a draw for the derby match, 1-1. Atletico and Real will both have to wait for next time to get hometown bragging rights. As of this moment, their next head-to-head fixture is scheduled for February 28th, at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
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