?Real Madrid came into their clash with local rivals Atletico having conceded just the 13 league goals this season – the best defensive record in La Liga.
Even Atleti, who have forged a reputation as a tough side to break down under Diego Simeone, have conceded one more goal already this campaign, while also scoring 17 goals fewer.
The two sides played out a goalless draw in the final of the Supercopa de Espana recently, with Los Blancos eventually winning on penalties. Saturday’s La Liga clash was an opportunity for ?Real Madrid to move six points clear at the top of the table (for the time being, anyway), while it was also a chance for Atletico to get revenge on their rivals.
Despite a bright start from Zinedine Zidane’s men, the away side grew into the contest and perhaps should have taken the lead. Chance after chance came and went – the score remained 0-0.
This was an Atletico team that had scored just one goal in their last four matches in all competitions. It was also the same side that had scored just 22 goals in the league this season, the joint-fewest tally of any team inside the top 14. As a result, it was crucial that ?Atletico took their chances when they created them – they didn’t.
It was clear to see the desire for them to go and score the opener, but despite their best efforts, they were continually frustrated and kept at bay. Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos were constantly shutting down the likes of Vitolo and Alvaro Morata and just when it appeared as though one of the attackers had found some space to get a shot in, a player in white would come flying in, putting their body on the line to stop the ball from going in.
In the first half, Angel Correa shot into the side netting, while Vitolo fired straight down the throat of Thibaut Courtois. Some will claim that they should have done better, but in fact, Los Blancos’ defence never stopped harrying and forced them into tame efforts.
Zidane will have been frustrated by his side’s inability to create many chances in the first period, but he will have been pleased with how they defended. With the score level at half time, the Frenchman reacted by bringing on two out-and-out wingers in Vinicius Jr. and Lucas Vazquez in a bid to change the direction of the game.
It proved to be an excellent decision, with Vinicius involved in the only goal of the game just over ten minutes into the second period. Los Blancos went on to see out the remainder of the game, ?picking up a valuable three points.
However, it could have been a very different story on another day had they conceded first. And that’s a credit to how Real defended.
They have now conceded just 13 goals from 22 games, while they have also kept 12 clean sheets in the league this season. In the end, they may not have been at their best, but it is another three points for Zidane and his men, who now find themselves six points clear at the top of the table.