Expectations were higher than at any point in the nine years since Atletico had last beaten their neighbours but the poorer, least successful club in the Spanish capital have a long history of letting down their vociferous fans.
And true to form, with 55,000 people roaring them on they were a goal down inside the first minute of yesterday's derby. Robinho skipped around Pablo and squared for Raul to tap in from just inside the six-yard box. It was the Real captain's 11th goal against the club he signed for as a schoolboy before joining Real 13 seasons ago.
Atletico began to control the game after the nightmare start and were boosted on 12 minutes when Real's Portuguese centre-half Pepe went down holding his right knee and had to be replaced by Michel Salgado. His first touch was poor – a short pass intercepted by Kun Aguero, who then tried to set Diego Forlan free, but there was too much weight on the ball and Iker Casillas collected it.
Despite the benefit of a lead Real were soon rocking on their heels and when Gago was forced into a mistake by Aguero, the Argentine played Forlan in only for his shot to be saved by Casillas.
Atletico then hit the bar twice, first with the midfielder Motta getting on the end of a Simao corner and then from Aguero, the outstanding player of the first half. Maxi Rodriguez tricked his way down the right-hand side and when his cross came out to Aguero the striker's shot hit the bar, with casillas for once beaten.
But with the clock ticking down to half-time the predictable happened – having soaked up so much pressure, Real doubled their lead. Wesley Sneijder's flighted corner was misjudged by Pablo but not by Ruud van Nistelrooy whose header just beat the flapping Christian Abbiati.
Atletico continued to press after the break but with less conviction in their attacks. Aguero, though, kept up the fight and his shot curled just around Casillas' left-hand post with 10 minutes left. But Real always had something in reserve and Robinho could have made it three, but shot straight at Abbiati from six yards out.