Drab derbi in Madrid finishes goalless as Ronaldo and Griezmann misfire
MADRID, Spain -- Three quick thoughts from the Wanda Metropolitano as Saturday evening's La Liga derbi finished Atletico Madrid 0-0 Real Madrid.
1. Drab derbi finishes goalless
Real Madrid's first ever visit to Atletico Madrid's new Wanda Metropolitano stadium was the first goalless draw in a Spanish capital derbi since 2005. And the point apiece meant that Barcelona were the night's real winners with the Catalans now 10 points clear in the title race.
It could all have been different had Angel Correa capitalised when horror-show passes from Marcelo and then Raphael Varane sent him clean through inside three minutes. But the Argentine clipped his shot wide from 15 yards, for what was a really poor miss. Although Atletico continued to be on top through the early stages, with Madrid regularly coughing up the ball in dangerous areas, Simeone's side could not make the early pressure tell.
Bit by bit the visitors got a grip on possession, but they lacked a cutting edge, and it was 35 minutes before the game had its first shot on target. Even then, Cristiano Ronaldo's long-range free kick was not a difficult one for Jan Oblak to push around the post. From the corner Sergio Ramos stooped to head, and was caught by Lucas Hernandez's boot with a blow that eventually forced the Madrid captain off at half-time with a fractured nose, but referee David Fernandez Borbalan correctly said no penalty.
Through the second half, Simeone at least made some switches to change things up, and substitute Yannick Carrasco made a difference, but Madrid goalkeeper Kiko Casilla remained untroubled. Fellow subs Fernando Torres and Kevin Gameiro also made a difference, linking up well, but Varane headed the latter's lobbed effort clear from under his own crossbar.
Even with his side's La Liga chances apparently on the line, Zinedine Zidane looked powerless to change things. In the end neither team deserved to win, and neither could.
2. Griezmann and Ronaldo fail again
Both teams' big-name No. 7s came into the match under a cloud. Ronaldo famously had just one goal in La Liga so far this season, while Antoine Griezmann was on his longest run for Atletico without netting.
Griezmann was more noticeable early on, but playing up front on his own in a 4-5-1 formation, he rarely even managed to step into the Madrid penalty area. The France international scored a cracker for his country against Wales last week, but as the game went on became more isolated, and often unsure of what to do when he did get the ball. Near the hour mark he was played into space 30 yards out, but dawdled and eventually hit a safe ball backwards. He was eventually substituted with 12 minutes remaining, to whistles from the home crowd.
Ronaldo was also struggling to make a mark, with the Wanda fans cheering his every misfortune, including when the derbi's all-time record goal scorer was outpaced to a through ball by fellow 32-year-old Juanfran. When space did open up closer to goal late on, the Portuguese took too long and the shot was blocked, taking his conversion rate to less than 2 percent in La Liga so far this term.
The two stars' travails are not completely to blame for their teams' problems at the moment, but when individual inspiration was needed on the night, neither could provide it.
3. Barca win at the Wanda while playing elsewhere
The same issues that have seen Madrid regularly drop points through the first three months of the season were on show here. Key players such as Marcelo and Luka Modric are clearly off form, and Ronaldo (amazingly) appears low on confidence.
Isco was again the brightest spark in midfield, especially in the first half, but the Andalusian playmaker regularly had nobody to pick out closer to goal. Zidane also had few options on his bench, and even still waited too long to throw on inspirational youngster Marco Asensio. Some Blancos fans and pundits might even have wished for the injured again Gareth Bale, so toothless did they look in attack.
Atletico remain unbeaten in La Liga since April, but once again they were hurt by a lack of creativity in the opposition half, and especially finishing power in front of goal. Correa's miss on three minutes was a real shocker, and by the end he was the only Rojiblanco player on the pitch who has scored (just once) in his team's past four games.
Barca have had no such problems in finding ways to win even when not at their best, and their win across town at Leganes earlier means Ernesto Valverde's side have already a huge lead over both Real and Atletico. In mid-November, with two thirds of the season left to play, surprise challengers Valencia look the most likely to deny the Blaugrana outfit the title.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan