Atletico lets Real Madrid off the hook

Atlético de Madrid did everything to win. They were better than Real Madrid from start to finish, but they let them off the hook and on top of that ran into a great Casillas, who appeared to save his team when they were at their worst. Javier Aguirre’s team exceeded their rival with clarity in almost all moments of the match, but in the key moments of the game couldn’t find the goal and Capello’s team, who only arrived in Atletico’s area once in the second half, found their prize when they hadn’t done anything to deserve such a precious treasure. Atletico de Madrid played a first half full of intensity, passion and football. They were head-and-shoulders above Real Madrid and if they didn’t arrive at the half with the match already settled it was mere coincidence. Javier Aguirre’s players literally walked all over an opponent that hardly gave signs of strength. Atletico could have taken the lead in the 8th minute, but Galletti’s pass went right by Casillas across the goal-mouth and nobody was there to get on the end of it. Three minutes later Fernando Torres appeared, and beat Casillas with a low, crossed shot to the far post. Vicente Calderon went crazy from one corner to another with another “Niño” goal. One question less for the Atletico captain at future press conferences… Although the match looked good early on, Atletico didn’t change the way they were playing. They could have sentenced the match in the 14th minute, but one of the linesman incorrectly disallowed a legal goal by Perea when Daudén Ibáñez had said the play was fine. The Atletico players ran kilometres without stopping, suffocating Fabio Capello’s players in all parts of the field. And when they had the ball, Jurado and Antonio López on one side, and Seitaridis and Galletti on the other, Atleti arrived with ease at Madrid’s area. Real Madrid, with scarce ideas against the muscle of the Atletico defence, gave their first sign of life in the 26th minute, but Leo got in Higuaín’s way. They had a diffcult time creating offense, and were always clearly exceeded by Atletico. Agüero and Torres moved all over the attacking zone, obligating the Madrid defenders to work their hardest at all times. That’s exactly what Helguera had to do when the Argentine sent in a hard right-footed shot from in close. But the Madrid player forced to shine was Casillas, who, in the 39th minute, put on his superhero suit to send the ball for a corner off a venomous shot from Galletti. The first half finished when Madrid accidentally found their second chance. The ball fell at Cannavaro’s feet by chance, but Leo Franco was able to stop his shot from inside the area. It was nothing if not fair after an excellent first half by Atletico de Madrid who were unlucky not to put the finishing touch in time. Blow of injustice Fabio Capello sent on Cassano at the half in detriment to an invisible Reyes, and soon after Gago left the pitch in favour of Diarra. The match was physical and Atletico was winning in this aspect with absolute clarity. Then, a few minutes later, the game turned upside down. In minute 59, Daudén Ibáñez let Cannavaro off the hook for his second yellow for spiking Agüero and one minute afterwards Higuaín took advantage of a nice pass from Cassano to beat Leo Franco. There couldn’t have been a bigger injustice to a match in which Atletico had dominated from beginning to end. The match changed its aspect and the play became more even, with an Atletico a bit down and a Madrid more settled in on the pitch. But this only lasted a couple of minutes, as Javier Aguirre’s players took charge once again as soon as they recovered their strength. They again hurled themselves towards Real Madrid’s area and Casillas saved his team by clearing the ball off the line after a header by Mista, who had taken the field moments earlier. Seitaridis tried his luck a bit later, but his shot from the right side went just wide of the far post. The match entered into its definitive stage and Madrid ended up with ten after the umpteenth foul by Cannavaro. Atletico de Madrid initiated their final offensive and desperately looked for the goal that they had deserved much earlier. Real Madrid closed down in back without thinking twice and Casillas once again appeared to keep his team afloat after a great play by Agüero. Madrid, which suffered a lot, dedicated themselves to stopping play as much as possible until the game ended and earned an undeserved point.