La Liga: Ronaldo sinks Atlético’s hopes in Madrid derby
Real Madrid went into the game under a cloud while their cross-city rivals were buoyed by strong recent form. But it was the same old story as Atlético’s winless run in this fixture continues.
By Halima Ali
On Saturday morning, 21,000 people piled into the Vicente Calderón in Madrid to roar support as their team stepped onto the turf, the loudest cheers reserved for golden boy Radamel Falcao. Yet the derbi that was to be played on matchday 14 would take place across town at the Santiago Bernabéu. This was no early kick-off, merely a final training session before the big game, but the fans had been summoned by coach Diego Simeone to show their affection for the players.
The huge turnout spoke volumes. While every year since 1999, the question of whether Atlético can finally beat their neighbours Real Madrid was greeted with pessimism, the build-up to this weekend really was different because Los Colchoneros, currently second in the table, are the strongest challengers to league leaders FC Barcelona and Simeone’s side have looked a solid outfit all season. Sitting above José Mourinho’s men in third, Atléti went into the match eight points ahead of their rivals, the biggest lead going into a derby clash since the 1995-96 season.
Madrid meanwhile were in crisis mode, having dropped more points last week; their travels south to Real Betis resulting in a 1-0 loss which saw their title hopes surely ended as they sit 11 points behind Barça. The fallout from the defeat saw ‘The Special One’ and the reigning Spanish champions come under heavy criticism from media and supporters alike. Mourinho had even called on those fans who wished to boo him to do so at 9.20pm in the Bernabéu when he would come out onto the pitch alone.
So, if ever there was a time to kick Madrid when they were down, there would surely be no better opportunity. And indeed the Madrid manager did come out as promised, receiving a mixed response of boos and applause and cries of his name in support.
The sideshow was soon over but it was back to the usual rut for Los Rojiblancos. Despite Falcao having the first opportunity on goal early on, Cristiano Ronaldo was first off the mark putting an end to his 310-minute goal drought by shooting a free kick past Thibaut Courtois into the bottom corner from 30 yards out. The Madrid forward threatened the visitor’s goal again with a long-range free kick and would go on to hit the crossbar twice in the scrappy and sometimes downright dirty game by both sides.
Ronaldo was involved yet again when he was picked out with a backheel by Karim Benzema. The Portuguese failed in his attempt to complete a one-two but managed to find Mesut Özil who struck the winner.
Fourteen years and counting, it is back to the drawing board for Atlético Madrid.
Elsewhere, veteran la liga coach Javier Aguirre, who has previously been at the helm of Osasuna, Atlético Madrid and Real Zaragoza, made his debut as Espanyol coach following Mauricio Pochettino’s dismissal last week.
His first game in charge ended a run of three straight losses in the league as the Periquitos drew 0-0 at Granada on Sunday. The hosts, who are in the relegation zone, created more chances at Los Cármenes stadium but the visitors held firm to take away a point.
In another managerial shakeup, Mauricio Pellegrino was dismissed as coach of Valencia following a 5-2 defeat against Real Sociedad at the Estadio de Mestalla. The team’s poor form this season meant the former Liverpool player was always on borrowed time and the latest loss followed a humiliating 4-0 result at Málaga CF last weekend. Los Che, who have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League are reportedly now looking to Ernesto Valverde – former Villarreal, Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao manager – or Luis Enrique, the former Barcelona player who was most recently coaching A.S. Roma.
RCD Mallorca 1 – 1 Real Zaragoza
Celta de Vigo 1 – 1 Levante UD
Deportivo La Coruña 2 – 3 Real Betis
Granada CF 0 – 0 RCD Espanyol
Real Madrid 2 – 0 Atlético Madrid
FC Barcelona 5 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
Valencia CF 2 – 5 Real Sociedad
Getafe CF 1 – 0 Málaga CF
Osasuna 1 – 0 Rayo Vallecano
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Published: Dec 3 2012
Category: Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=7557
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Tags: cristiano ronaldo, Mourinho, Ronaldo, spain, Spain football, spain news, spain soccer, spanish football, spanish news, Spanish soccer