Business as usual in Madrid derby

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

Cristiano Ronaldo celeb Courtois woe Real Madrid v Atletico MAdrid PA PhotosCristiano Ronaldo celebrates after his free-kick beat Thibaut Courtois

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink need not worry - he will continue to be the talk of Atletico fans where El Derbi is concerned for some time yet. The last man to score the winning goals for Los Rojiblancos against Real Madrid. A 3-1 victory at the Bernabeu in October 1999 and the Dutchman scored twice. That record was all set to be smashed on Saturday night with Diego Simeone's men in top form and in the uncommon position of not just finding themselves above their more illustrious neighbours going into a derby match, but a whole eight points clear. It was all built-up to be Atleti's night - they may not have been out-and-out favourites, especially at the Bernabeu, but they were as close as they had been to that tag for some time.

- Real's derby domination continues

A Blancos victory, or should that be a pretty comfortable Blancos victory, was not on the cards, but that is exactly how it panned out as Jose Mourinho's men showed there is still some life in the old dog yet. Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo - a stunning free-kick - and Mesut Ozil condemned Atleti to their 24th derby match without victory. Before the game the Madrid Ultras unveiled a banner that read: "Today, the incredible story of the Atletico fan who claims to have seen his team win". Those from the banks of the Manzanares may still be the best club in Madrid as the league table reads, but Los Blancos certainly proved that, on their day, they are the capital's top dogs. Anyone aged 13 or under in the Bernabeu on Saturday night will think Atleti simply turn up to these derby matches to get beat.

It was a slightly bizarre day all-in-all in the Spanish capital, and a bizarre day that looked to be playing into the hands of Simeone's side, form aside. Atleti held an open training session at the Vicente Calderon at lunchtime to give the club's fans the chance to support their team on the day of the match before they made the short trip north. The visiting support at the Bernabeu would be numerous but they would still be vastly out-numbered and vastly out-sung. It seemed like a good idea to let Atleti's supporters give their side a real boost before they entered the 'dragon's den'. Over 21,000 turned up to offer their support - for what was ultimately a training session.

If that was a bit different, albeit in a good way, Jose Mourinho came on the Bernabeu pitch a whole 40 minutes before kick-off to allow the Madridistas boo him if they so wish. It came in response to the booing heard in Los Blancos' midweek cup match and the 'Special One' wanted to get any booing out of the way before the match started so the support could be wholly for the team come kick-off. Only Mourinho. Still, with 40 minutes to go before kick-off there must have been about 2,000 supporters in the stadium - many of whom were Atleti fans who would boo him anyway. It was a typical Mourinho gesture - at least the photographers loved in.

If only the match could have lived up to the build-up, then, not that Los Blancos will be complaining. As it was, what was billed as Atleti's chance to finally enjoy a derby win, the hosts were convincing winners. It was not the entertaining game many thought it would be - the first half was pretty nervy with few clear-cut chances being carved open by either side. Falcao, in his first game at the Bernabeu, did not live up to his previous form this season and neither did Atleti - they simply did not do themselves justice going on form this term.

Much of that has to be put down to the performance by the hosts, however. Los Blancos were not magical in their win, but the defence showed a real stubbornness that has been distinctly lacking this season and there were big performances from big players. Ronaldo and Ozil, the goalscorers, namely. The Portuguese had arguably his best game of the season, scoring a sublime free-kick just when it looked as though free-kick duties may be being shared out elsewhere, and hitting the woodwork twice. He could have had a hat-trick. He had a steely determination about him, a drive that has been missing for much of the season. He also put on the assist for Ozil. Anyone would think he's just been nominated for a massive award and he has to up his game if he has any chance of winning it. Hang on...

This was a game Los Blancos had to win. The consequences of defeat could have been unthinkable. Would it have been the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of Mourinho's future at the club? A possible 14 points gap behind Barcelona at this stage of the season would not have been in anyone's thoughts. An eleven point gap behind their near neighbours certainly would not have been. As it turned out, there is still a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel that Madrid can turn things around this season. Just a glimmer. Ironically, it is also a result that will suit Barcelona, who thrashed Athletic Bilbao earlier in the night. They now have some breathing space at the top of La Liga and probably will do going into the winter break.

With the Ballon d'Or award to come in January, Madridistas can expect to see more of the form they saw from Ronaldo, and his turn in form could well act as a turn in fortunes for Los Blancos. The white side of Madrid will have the bragging rights in work come Monday morning and that will be a start at least. It is going to take a lot more for Mourinho, and indeed his side, to win the majority of Madridistas and president Florentino Perez over this season but if Los Blancos can find some consistency in their form then there is no reason why they cannot find some form of success come the end of the season.

Follow Nicholas on Twitter @nicholasrigg

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