Who ever thought that in the first and last minute Real Madrid would further sink Atlético into deeper problems after a heated Madrid derby. With only 35 seconds gone by in the match Ruud Van Nistelrooy smacked a shot from 25 yards out to beat Leo Franco on the left post.
Overall the match was not full the typical action that you would think in a derby. Atletico would have the lion´s share of the possession, but the Colchoneros lacked ideas in three quarters of the pitch. Desperate crosses and forwards getting the ball with their backs behind the goal led to fairly easy defense by Real Madrid. The Merengues were able to counterattack effectively and the homeside was helped out by Leo Franco on quite a few efforts on goal.
The more desperate Atlético got, the worse the situation got. There were shots flying all up into the stands where they were no threat fro Iker Casillas. As time ticked away Atlético´s organiztion up front disappeared. Diego Forlán´s and Sergio Agüero´s shots were wide, and that was the least of their worries. They had to battle against seven players in order to get a shot on goal. Atlético would lose Luis Amaranto Perea after he swung at Wesley Sneijder´s face and connected in the 30th minute. There was no need to repudiate referee Clos Pérez´ decision as the obvious call further sunk Atlético. They would get a reprieve of sorts when Van Nistelrooy would be given his marching orders after a questionable late ¨challenge¨ in the 39th minute against a diving Maniche; but this was not an excuse for the poor level of play. Real Madrid had more threatening chances on the Atlético goal
Then Aguirre saw the light.
Portugues international Simao came in and gave the Colchoneros another avenue to attack. He gave Sergio Ramos a hard time on the left wing and gave a touch more space for Agüero to move around. All of a sudden he was the man giving the team a various number of set pieces on the left side. But the most important set piece of the match was yet to come. Off a foul on Sergio Agüero, Simao would find a crack in the wall and put it past a helpless Iker Casillas to equalizer the match at the end of the 90 minutes. There was sheer pandemonium at the Vicente Calderón as they would be able to get at least a point out of this nightmarish game that saw them take steps sideways instead of forwards. Despite the battling and obstacles they had to endure this was a just result.
Unbeknownst to the home side they still had yet one more bullet in their chamber. That one they would use to shoot themselves in the foot with.
If Simao was the brilliant sub of the game for Aguirre, Royston Drenthe was Bernd Schuster´s. The Dutchman substituted Raúl and immediately became the difference maker. In the overall look of the things, he was the game maker. After the Clos Pérez gave six minutes due him having to be treated for cramps, Madrid would finish a game in typical Merengue fashion. Madrid began to pressure the Atlético half of the field and eventually Drenthe would be faced in a man-to-man situation against Jan Heitinga just inside the 18 yards box. a quick feint and mov towards the line saw Heitinga stick out his leg and clip Drenthe´s thigh. Clos Pérez was just steps from the action and called a penalty kick. Gonzalo Higuaín cashed in and helped Madrid stretch their unbeaten streak against the cross-town rivals to 14 matches.
Their win placed Madrid in second place in the standings with 16 points behind Villarreal who drew with Espanyol at the Montjuic later in the evening. For Atlético, it will be yet another few months until they will be able exorcise this jinx at the Santiago Bernabéu. No rest for the weary now as they will have a big midweek Champions League match against Liverpool (sans Fernando Torres) at home after their stadium ban was lifted.
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