Real Madrid have extended their lead at the top of the La Liga table with a win over local rivals Atletico Madrid, at least until second-placed Barcelona play on Sunday night.
The home side started off with five midfielders on the pitch, reinforcing the league leaders defensively but stifling the attacking possibilities. A strong defence has been a major feature of Madrid’s season so far, as they have let in a mere 13 goals in their 22 league matches played so far.
Sergio Ramos had the biggest chance of the first half, as he found himself with space and the ball at his feet in the Atletico Madrid box with defenders sleeping. A poor shot didn’t worry Jan Oblak in goal.
Real Madrid took the lead on 57 minutes after a brilliant move on their left wing. Vinícius Junior, who has found minutes difficult to come by after a breakout season last year, was brought on at half time and kickstarted the game-winning move.
Half-time subs made a big difference. Kroos and Isco were replaced by Vinícius and Lucas Vazquez to give the team more width.
The tricky Brazilian held onto the ball and danced around Šime Vrsaljko in search of the right angle to release the overlapping Ferland Mendy. The French full back only needed one touch to put the ball into the perfect spot for Benzema to tap in the only goal of the game.
Mendy constantly supplemented Real’s attack down the left side, pinning Atletico back. In addition to his assist, he complete more dribbles – four – than any other player on the pitch.
Atleti tried to regain their composure, and came back at their illustrious neighbours with new signing Yannick Carrasco, who returned to the club during the week after spending two years in China. Alas, he could offer little going forward and Madrid held onto control until the final whistle.
Real Madrid: Courtois 8; Carvajal 7, Varane 8, Ramos 7, Mendy 9; Casemiro 8, Valverde 8, Modric 7, Kroos 6, Isco 7; Benzema 8
Atletico Madrid: Oblak 7; Vrsaljko 5, Savic 6, Felipe 5, Lodi 5; Thomas 4, Llorente 4, Correa 5, Saúl 5; Vitolo 7, Morata 6
Real Madrid subs: Vinícius Junior 8, Lucas Vazquez 7
Atletico Madrid subs: Lemar 4, Carrasco 5, Camello 5