01 December 2012
The history of the derby shows that they cannot be predicted, but the script for recent derbies against Atlético de Madrid since 1999, above all at the Santiago Bernabeu, tends to repeat the same ending and joy for the Whites’ supporters. It was not a beautiful game, but an important morale booster for the home side, who aim to win every match they play in the last month of the year. Cristiano Ronaldo, who played magnificently, opened the scoring with a straight shot from 35 metres that will possibly be the goal of the weekend because of its importance and beauty, while Özil, after a great assist by Ronaldo, scored the second and match-winning goal. Real Madrid remain unbeaten at home this season and have gone a year unbeaten at the Bernabeu. Matches like today’s lead us to think that this spectacular run still has plenty of legs.
Real Madrid started December with the first derby of the season at home. The Whites started with a desire to demonstrate why they are unbeaten at home this season and the fans that had packed into the stadium wanted to play a determining role in the push for victory. Pressing very high up and preventing the opponent’s defence from playing the ball out easily, each fifty-fifty ball was a battle of life and death. The Bernabeu applauded the effort of their players. Perhaps it was because of this that the fans were in rapture after the first dangerous move of the match for the home side. An amazing goal by Cristiano Ronaldo from 35 metres was his way of thanking the fans for their constant support. The Portuguese, who celebrated as he knows best his recent candidacy in the shortlist for the Balón d’Or, placed the ball with care and struck the free kick so accurately that the stretch of the tall Courtois (1.95 m) could not prevent the ball from finding the back of the net in the fifteenth minute.
The match was set up to the Whites’ liking, with an advantage on the scoreboard and the home fans supporting the cause. Despite having the option of the counterattack, possibly the best in the world, they did not want to lose control of the ball and their determination to continue dominating a game unlike many others was clear in each action. There were few chances before reaching the end of the first half. One for Atlético that was cleared by Casillas, showing off his reflexes after a shot from Falcao in the thirteenth minute and another for Cristiano Ronaldo, the home side’s second chance alongside the goal, when the Portuguese player put pressure on Courtois by shooting from practically the halfway line in the thirty-sixth minute.
Cristiano Ronaldo continued his master class in the second half
The second half was as hard-fought at the first. Fouls were committed constantly in the midfield and minutes without a stoppage in the game were few and far between. Despite this Real Madrid was the only team that put pressure on the rival penalty area in the first quarter of an hour. A move by Özil and Benzema ended in a cross-shot by the French player that was cleared by Courtois in the forty-eighth minute. Another run by the German player ended in a left-footed shot by Cristiano Ronaldo that went wide in the fifty-fourth minute and a shot from a free kick forced the Belgian goalkeeper to be at full stretch to prevent a goal in the sixtieth minute.
These chances took place during the build up to the second goal of the night, a goal that brought calm to the Bernabeu’s stands. The move was started by Benzema, who backheeled to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese once again found the French player, but Godín read his intentions and intercepted the ball. This was no obstacle for Cristiano Ronaldo, however, who regained the ball and set up Özil, who corrected his poor first touch with the volley that put the ball in the back of the net in the sixty-fifth minute. 2-0 and Cristiano Ronaldo was the decisive factor: a goal and an assist capped a performance worthy of being framed.
The Portuguese’s performance, which was the best part of the match, was not over yet. With fifteen minutes of the match to go, another shot from the Portuguese crashed into the crossbar from a free kick after a magisterial individual move from Benzema that forced Miranda to bring down the Frenchman on the edge of the area. Four minutes later Ronaldo found the post again after a magnificent assist from Özil, who wanted to return the favour of the second goal to the Portuguese. There was not time for much else, except from the appearance of the reserve team player José Rodríguez, who made his league debut. Real Madrid, who are yet to be defeated at home this season, are unbeaten in La Liga at the Bernabeu for a year. Matches like today lead us to think that this spectacular run still has plenty of legs.