Real Madrid 2-0 Atletico Madrid: early goals and a routine victory for Real

November 8, 2010

REAL: 1 Casillas; 4 Ramos, 3 Pepe, 2 Carvalho, 12 Marcelo; 24 Khedira, 14 Alonso, 22 Di Maria, 23 Oezil, 7 Ronaldo, 20 Higuain. ATLETICO: 13 de Gea; 2 Valera, 17 Ujfalusi, 18 Dominguez, 14 Luis; 19 Reyes, 4 Suarez, 5 Tiago, 20 Simao; 10 Aguero, 7 Forlan. Usual diagrams back soon, it's a technical problem, so please don't complain.

Ricardo Carvalho and Mesut Oezil’s first half goals gave Real a commanding lead.

Jose Mourinho kept the same side as in the 2-2 draw in Milan in midweek. No change in formation either – 4-2-3-1.

Qique Sanchez Flores went for the usual 4-4-2 with inverted wingers, Simao Sabrosa on the left and Jose Antonio Reyes on the right. Luis Perea was out, so Tomas Ujfalusi moved over to the centre-back position he made his name in, whilst Juan Valera started at right-back. Mario Suarez made his second start for Atletico in the centre.

Real started the game extremely strongly. Atletico were keen to keep it tight between the lines of defence and attack, and their midfield dropped deep whenever they lost possession. This had the desired effect in that it starved Oezil of room to work in, but the knock-on effect was that (with Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero staying high up the pitch) it gave Xabi Alonso time on the ball, and he dictated the play.

Atletico defensive line

Atletico also seemed to have problems with their offside line – despite not playing particularly high up the pitch, they were constantly prone to balls in behind. The issue here was the aforementioned problem with not enough pressure on Real players in deeper positions, and Alonso and Khedira were free to play the ball through the two lines with few problems.

Despite the constant pressure early on, it was through a mini-counter-attack that Real went ahead. Ricardo Carvalho picked the ball up in defence after Reyes conceded possession with a dive, and stormed up the pitch to get on the end of a deflected pass. It is the second goal Carvalho has scored for Real (after the winner against Osasuna), and both have come from counter-attacks in open play rather than from set-pieces, the more traditional route of goals for centre-backs.

Centre-back forward

Carvalho’s willingness to get forward and join the attack is an interesting feature of his game. He did so very well under Chelsea - note his goal to clinch the league title in 2005/06 for example, and despite being regarded as a ‘defensive’ manager, it’s clearly something Mourinho is comfortable with. He also encouraged his centre-backs at Inter to do likewise – most obviously Lucio, who charged forward regularly, but Walter Samuel also popped up with a crucial goal away at Lazio last season in a similar situation. Thomas Vermaelen was also seen doing this at Arsenal last season, and it does appear the one position on the pitch where a very basic movement towards the opposition goal can completely throw the opposition – no-one was tracking Carvalho here, and he finished well.

Real went 2-0 up quickly through Oezil’s low free-kick after Cristiano Ronaldo had been tripped.

Atletico work the right

Atletico did not give up, however, and had numerous opportunities to get back in the game, forcing Iker Casillas into a couple of decent saves. Almost all the away side’s moves came down their right-hand side, and there seemed to be a deliberate ploy to work that side of the pitch.

In theory it makes sense – Ronaldo barely looks to get back and instead stays high up the pitch against the full-back, so Marcelo is left to defend that side of the pitch on his own. And, whilst the Brazilian has made an excellent start to the season and looks at home at left-back, there are still some questions over his defensive ability – and regardless of that, any player who repeatedly has to cope with 1 v 2 situations will always look vulnerable. Aguero drifted out to the right and worked the ball around Marcelo with Reyes, and Atletico should have found the net on at least one occasion.

Real counter

Still, the same could be said of Real, who (in a familiar situation) could have scored on the counter-attack in various moves, but were constantly let down by poor decision-making. The speed Real have when going forward is astonishing – Oezil, Ronaldo and Higuain stay high up the pitch and break very quickly, often joined by Angel di Maria on the right.

The way they play here is slightly reminiscent of the Brazil side under Dunga – Ronaldo plays up against the right-back (the Robinho role), Oezil doesn’t become involved much in defensive play and moves left-of-centre to combine with Ronaldo (the Kaka role) and Higuain is the main point of attack (the Luis Fabiano role). Some credit should go to Atletico’s defence, and David de Gea for a couple of good saves (after looking nervous early on), but it was a comfortable final half hour for Real.


Real showed that they are capable of being dangerous in two situations – first, when they have the majority of possession and are piling constant pressure upon their opponents, second, when they sit back and counter at speed. Expect a combination of the two approaches to be used frequently under Mourinho this season, especially at home – a lightning start to grab an early lead, and a game-killing defensive display with a sporadic counter-attacking threat for the rest of the game.

Atletico are a good side when they have the ball, and their defence is decent enough on paper – but they’re simply too easy to play against. Opposition sides either find it easy to find space between the lines (against Villarreal) or in deeper positions (here) and they are dragged out of shape far too easily (against Barcelona). With Diego Forlan completely out of form, they don’t offer enough goal threat to compensate for their defensive frailties.

Tags: , , ,