It had been 14 years and 25 games from the last time that Atletico Madrid had beaten city rivals Real Madrid in any game when they ended that streak with a 2-1 win in the final of the Copa del Rey back in May. On Saturday, Atletico repeated the same winning feat at the Bernabeu, but this time in a league game as they beat Real 1-0 in the latest Derbi Madrileno by executing the game plan laid out by coach Diego Simeone.
The idea was simple, effective and one that required maximum effort and concentration from his team on the defensive end and precise effectiveness on attack. Simeone opted for a compact 4-4-2 formation with Tiago, Arda Turan, Koke and Gabi as the starting midfielders. Their play and execution of the game plan would go a long way to ensuring that they closed down and limit the space Real had to attack, and then be responsible to quickly counter and spring David Villa and Diego Costa when they had a chance to attack Real’s defense.
The play of the midfield in support the defense meant that Real would only have five of 20 shots taken being on target despite having controlled 63 percent of ball possession. The second part of the Simeone game plan required his strikers to take advantage of scoring opportunities, and the final part called on goalkeeper Thibault Courtois to make some key saves in order to hang on to the lead if they had it.
In the end, the plan worked as they celebrated a 1-0 win, Atletico achieved several major psychological wins along the way. The first proved that they can beat the big boys and their much more talented and star-studded city rivals as long as they followed Simeone’s game play. The second was that they showed the Copa del Rey final was not a fluke, and that Atlético are no longer doormats in Derbi Madrileno games.
Finally, in addition to beating Real in a league game for the first time since October 31, 1999, Atletico solidified their claims as legitimate title contenders as they continue to be tied atop the league with Barcelona with 21 points through seven games, and have left Real five points back in the process.