A 3-1 victory at the Wanda Metropolitano in the Madrid derby, their fourth league win in a row, saw Real Madrid leapfrog cross-city rivals Atlético de Madrid into second place in LaLiga on Saturday.
The European champions, thanks to goals from Casemiro, Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale, now emerge from a difficult beginning to the 2018/19 campaign as Barcelona’s closest challengers for the top-flight title in Spain.
Real began the game brightly, taking an early lead, but Atlético soon gained a foothold and equalised though Antoine Griezmann.
However, with gifted teenager Vinícius Júnior leading the counter-attack and Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modrić pulling the strings, Real proved too dangerous a foe, recording a ruthless, efficient and statement-making victory.
Centre-back Diego Godín and midfielder Saúl Ñíguez were both back in the starting XI for Atlético after injury absences.
For Real, Gareth Bale was once again omitted from the line-up in favour of 18-year-old Vinícius, while out-of-favor Isco didn’t even make the bench.
0-1 (16 mins) - Real took the lead through a spectacular bicycle kick tucked away from close range by Casemiro. Such displays of skill are not really associated with the Brazilian defensive midfielder but he popped up unmarked at the far post as Atlético failed to deal with a high ball inside their box and executed a difficult technique with aplomb.
1-1 (25 mins) - The home side broke quickly and Griezmann found himself racing through on goal. The World Cup winner was the coolest man inside the Wanda Metropolitano as he rolled the ball between Thibaut Courtois’ legs and into the net, a goal which was eventually confirmed after a lengthy VAR review to check for offside.
1-2 (43 mins) - Real captain Ramos fired the European champions back into the lead from the penalty spot shortly before half-time, firing low to Jan Oblak’s right. The spot kick was awarded after Vinícius, on yet another daring run inside from the left, was fouled inside the penalty area.
1-3 (74 mins) - Bale, off the bench in the second half, sealed three points for the visitors with his 100th goal for the club, a crisp left-footed finish after he was played through by Luka Modrić.
The penalty decision. Atlético fans will protest that the award of the game-winning penalty was incorrect, with the initial contact on Vinícius occurring just outside the penalty area. But, after a VAR review, it was determined the foul continued across the line and into the box.
Key player – Vinícius Júnior
The 18-year-old Brazilian has been in scintillating form of late, a key contributor to Real’s improved recent fortunes under manager Santiago Solari.
And he continued in that vein against Atlético, starting from the left and wreaking havoc with his speed of foot and thought and direct dribbling. His performance wasn’t perfect, with precision a skill he will acquire in time, but his vibrancy was too much for Atlético to handle.
What it means:
Real’s win puts them second in the table, just five points behind Barcelona who play Athletic Club on Sunday and unbeaten in La Liga in 2019.
That’s two defeats in a row now for Atlético, who were beaten 1-0 by Real Betis last weekend. It’s now imperative that Diego Simeone’s men get back on track with a win over Rayo Vallecano next time out if they are to keep their title hopes alive.
Atlético de Madrid (4-4-2): Oblak; Arias, Giménez, Godín, Hernández; Correa (Rodrigo 65), Thomas, Saúl, Lemar (Vitolo 59); Morata (Kalinić 71), Griezmann
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Courtois; Reguilón, Ramos, Varane, Carvajal; Kroos (Ceballos 84), Casemiro, Modrić; Vázquez, Benzema (Mariano 89), Vinícius (Bale 57)
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