In the end, the world remained firmly on its axis on Saturday. Day followed night and when the sun rose to bring in a crisp Madrid morning on Sunday, Atlético still had not beaten its city rival this century.
It was all supposed to be so different. The rojiblancos were going into the match ahead of Real in the league for the first time since 1995; in Radamel Falcao, it possesses one of the most coveted forwards in the world game. And more importantly still, it had only lost once in the league this season, while Real had been beaten on three occasions.
The scene was set for a famous victory. Before the game José Mourinho offered himself to his naysaying support. Like a modern-day Caesar, the Portuguese had invited the crowd to attend the stadium at 9.20pm to boo to their hearts’ content; to voice their displeasure at recent results or just to give the coach a bit of a thumbs-down. Few turned up, preferring to throng the bars in the vicinity of the Bernabéu instead. Most of those who did cheered the manager. There were a few whistles, but then Atlético’s traveling support was already ensconced in the stadium.
When the match began the home crowd fell largely silent, as it tends to do, as Real probed with little effect, its front four unable to strike up their usual telepathic chemistry. Atlético, too, was solid in defense but lacked its usual spark going forward. An injury to Felipe Luis before the match forced Diego Simeone into a reshuffle, with Cata Díaz drafted in to the back four. There is a reason the big Argentinean has only started one league game this season: he is all well and good when something needs to be stopped, but more or less useless when an attack is there to be started.
Radamel Falcao was reduced to pot shots by the end of a frustrating evening
This left Arda Turan isolated and, as a result, Falcao playing most of the night with his back to goal. Unable to carve out clear chances for himself in the absence of any meaningful support, the Colombian was reduced to pot shots by the end of a frustrating evening for Atlético.
Cristiano Ronaldo ended his drought from dead ball situations to open the scoring and then laid on the second of Real’s 2-0 win for Mesut Özil, who also had a game reminiscent of his sparkling form last term. Still, Atlético remains five points clear of its city rival and should maintain the distance when it welcomes Deportivo to the Calderón next week. Then there is the small matter of a trip to Barcelona, which continued its inexorable march through La Liga with a 5-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao to wrap up the most prolific start to a season on record.
Elsewhere, Mauricio Pellegrino became the second managerial casualty of the season following Valencia’s 2-5 home loss to Real Sociedad, scarcely the most formidable side on the road. Valencia president Manuel Llorente faced a barrage of abuse during the game — and a flare hurled in the direction of the VIP box — including calls for his resignation, and responded in the only way a club president worth his salt would: offering the head of his coach instead.
Other results: Osasuna 1-0 Rayo; Getafe 1-0 Málaga; Granada 0-0 Espanyol; Depor 2-3 Betis.