Thomas Partey makes noise but Atlético Madrid fail to break down Real Madrid

Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey weaved magic in midfield while Gareth Bale missed Real Madrid’s best chance in a tense 0-0 draw

In the end there was no way through, in part because no one was particularly desperate to find it. Another derby ended in another draw, allowing Real Madrid to remain top and Atlético to remain a solitary point behind them.

“We didn’t have clear chances and nor did they: neither of us risked very much,” Jan Oblak said at the final whistle, pretty much saying it all. Between them, these sides spent almost €600m in the summer but they produced a game of few clear-cut opportunities that came to a goalless conclusion.

The last time these teams had met, it had finished 7-2 to Atlético in New Jersey. “What happened, happened,” Zidane had said then. Everyone knew it would be different this time and so it turned out. This was tighter, tenser, and meant more; a fact highlighted by the inclusion of Fede Valverde in Real’s midfield in place of James Rodríguez. Afterwards Zidane suggested that defensive solidity was his priority. This was a battle for control which no one really won – at least not when it came to the ball – but no one lost either.

If there was a broad first-half pattern it ran: Atlético, Real, Atlético. Joao Felix shot wide when Diego Costa sent him clear. Harmless shots from Karim Benzema, Nacho and Toni Kroos drew three corners in little over a minute. Kroos then took the ball beautifully on the bounce before bending a shot from 20 yards that Jan Oblak dived to push away. There was little, though, from the two biggest signings: João Félix and Eden Hazard.

Thomas Partey was the game’s outstanding midfielder. Displaying a range of passing that was not always reciprocated by those around him, he sent a superb ball across the six-yard box which Costa couldn’t reach. Kieran Trippier was another of the night’s most impressive performers, sought early and often by his team-mates.

Thomas teed up João Félix to shoot wide from the edge of the area and then his superb pass found Trippier in the area. Options didn’t open up for the Englishman with the speed he hoped and Thibaut Courtois stopped his low ball reaching Koke.

Diego Simeone made his first change at the break, Ángel Correa replacing Vitolo and immediately dashing in to head over from Costa’s chipped pass. Correa brought electricity but not much clarity and it was Real who had the clearest chance of the night when Hazard found Nacho overlapping. Nacho’s cutback ran towards Gareth Bale, thundering into the area and the perfect shooting position. He opened his body and hit the ball high into the south end, the roar from the fans there speaking of relief. At the other end, Trippier’s cross – his ninth – only just evaded Costa.

Both sides made changes, albeit without running excessive risks. Lemar, Modrić, Llorente and James were introduced but it had little affect on the direction of the game, something both teams seemed to accept and embrace as time ticked away. “We weren’t going to go mad, throwing everything forward,” Courtois said. Saúl headed Koke’s corner just past the post. Thomas, Correa and Trippier combined to reach the byline but Koke couldn’t turn the shot goalwards at the near post. And that was just about that, Zidane not unjustly saying: “We didn’t allow a single chance.”

The closest anyone came was Benzema, whose header from Nacho’s cross found Oblak diving full length to make a sharp save.


Sid Lowe at Wanda Metropolitano

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