Real Madrid coast past Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the first leg of Champions League Semi-final at the Bernabeu. It was a game dominated by the home side and tactical decisions from their manager Zidane.
There weren’t many surprises to both starting lineups amidst injuries to key players. Varane started at centre-back for Real Madrid replacing injured Pepe, Isco replaced Bale in the front line to support Benzema and Ronaldo. Simeone, on the other hand, started Hernandez on the right back to replace injured Juanfran and the absence of Gimenez meant a start for Savic at centre-back.
Atletico, as we all know, had their 4-4-2 shape in place with a narrow midfield and a compact back four. Two strikers dropping deep one by one to make up numbers in midfield. Real Madrid more or less started with a diamond 4-4-2 having a narrow midfield and Isco floating in behind Benzema, Ronaldo being central most of the time to take chances in the box.
The match started with Real forcing the pace of the game passing the ball quickly and not letting opposition backline settle in a certain pace. The home side carved out their first big chance when right back Carvajal played a clever one-two with Isco after isolating left back Luis and shooting to draw a good save from Oblak. It was so easy for Real and narrow Atletico midfield meant Carrasco couldn’t track the run of Carvajal.
Real led through Ronaldo heading the ball via a mishit cross from Casemiro, Savic should have done better to deny the goal but the Portuguese No 7 wanted it more than the defender. The home side kept dominating the game in midfield, Zidane’s decision to play Isco in a floating position allowed them to add an extra presence in midfield to outnumber the opposition.
As shown in the image above, there were occasions when it was 4 v 2 for Real in midfield. While in midfield possession, Isco dropped deep at times to outrun Atletico which allowed likes of Modric and Kroos to dominate the game at their pace. Atletico strikers never dropped back to support their midfield which was very unusual, they were too isolated in the front. The Spaniard Isco was fabulous in his role supporting wide plays too by adding up to the fullbacks and isolating the opposition fullback.
Zidane’s substitutions were spot on with Asensio coming on for Isco and straight away his off the ball movement along with Modric created space for Benzema who got past Godin and set up Ronaldo who scored his and team’s second goal. A good goal which had everything correct tactically.
As shown in the above image, Modric and Asensio made wide runs which attracted the opposition midfield as the right back Hernandez was out of the game, this gave Marcelo a chance to feed Benzema in space and the rest is history.
The third and probably the clinching goal came after Vasquez ran down the right channel after Atletico were caught on the break.
Casemiro did well to block the front post which attracted the defenders and created space for Ronaldo to tuck in the finish past the goalkeeper.
Throughout the game, Griezmann was left either isolated or with too much to do with the ball. This was partly due to his inability to run behind the defence and stretch the backline or not creating enough chances with the ball at his feet. Another reason was poor work rate from his strike partner Gameiro who never looked like being in the game. Frenchman had no link up with Griezmann and never dropped back to support the outnumbered midfield to trigger the counterattack from that position.
We talked about how good Real Madrid were tactically but Atletico were equally bad to make them look good. There was no desire which is quite unlike Simeone’s team, defensively they were too open which made them too easy to beat. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t take anything away from Zidane and his men, spot on from minute one and punished the opposition on every mistake.