“Football is wonderful because unexpected things can happen,” Diego Simeone had attempted to argue at the Bernabeu late on Tuesday night, except, it seems, Atletico Madrid beating Real Madrid in a Champions League match. That looks like something that will never happen at this point.
This was the truly dispiriting about Simeone's press conference, too, after a thoroughly dispiriting 3-0 first-leg defeat at the feet of Cristiano Ronaldo. You could say that the Argentine was trying to strike a defiant tone in the aftermath, except his very demeanour suggested he didn’t feel all that defiant.
You could see in his face he didn't seem to believe they could actually do it, as seemed the case for many of his players throughout the first leg to actually leave Atletico and Simeone in this depressing position. That came across when he said they have a “minimal” chance - repeating it three times - and there were other less fanciful lines from the manager’s comments that better reflected the true, traumatic reality of this game for his club.
Real Madrid 3 Atletico Madrid 0 player ratings
Real Madrid 3 Atletico Madrid 0 player ratings
1/22 Keylor Navas – 7 out of 10
Rarely called into action, but did well when he was. Brilliantly quick off his line to deny Gameiro for Atleti’s first real chance.
2/22 Dani Carvajal – 6 out of 10
Contributed to Madrid’s dominant start down the flanks but had his evening cut short by an injury before half-time.
3/22 Sergio Ramos – 6 out of 10
Lucky to escape punishment for an early elbow on Hernandez.
4/22 Raphael Varane – 7 out of 10
Ended the night in one piece, which is always a plus, and had little else to deal with from Atletico’s frontline.
5/22 Marcelo – 8 out of 10
Always a threat on the left flank, made Hernandez’s first half-hour a miserable one with constant overlaps.
6/22 Casemiro – 7 out of 10
Needed to show discipline in the heart of Madrid’s midfield and did so.
7/22 Luka Modric – 8 out of 10
Alongside Kroos, ran the midfield battle. Niguez and Gabi had little in response to either of them. Other than that, went close with delightful half-volley near the end.
8/22 Toni Kroos – 8 out of 10
Found himself with enough time and space to execute his passing game and control the flow of proceedings in midfield.
9/22 Isco – 8 out of 10
Always had his head up, always driving forward looking to build on his side’s dominance. Substituted, though, as he picked up a yellow and was at risk of another.
10/22 Cristiano Ronaldo – 9 out of 10
The man for the big occasion once again. Only he was ever going to reach the header for the first, only he could be relied upon to finish the second so emphatically, only he was ever going to score a hat-trick tonight. Superb.
11/22 Karim Benzema – 8 out of 10
Had several chances to double Madrid’s lead, going closest with a spectacular acrobatic effort. Eventually set up the second, showing brilliant strength against Godin.
12/22 Jan Oblak – 7 out of 10
Denied Madrid with several eye-catching stops but could perhaps have done better to get in front of Ronaldo’s header.
13/22 Lucas Hernandez – 4 out of 10
Stepping in for Juanfran, but overwhelmed by Madrid’s wing play at times, particularly during the first-half onslaught.
14/22 Stefan Savic – 5 out of 10
Lost the aerial battle with Ronaldo for the opener. Could have prevented the effort if he had been more alert for the second-time cross.
15/22 Diego Godin – 4 out of 10
Went close to equalising when Griezmann’s delicate free-kick slipped him in but failed to be as ruthless in front of goal as he was in the 2014 final. Shoved off too easily in the build-up to Madrid’s second.
16/22 Filipe Luis – 6 out of 10
Better than his fellow Atleti defenders, but still powerless to prevent the numerous forays forward that Madrid enjoyed in the first half.
17/22 Koke – 5 out of 10
Not his fault he’s not an out-and-out winger in a game when his team needed width, but ineffectual when attempting to get forward.
18/22 Gabi – 7 out of 10
Came to the aid of his ailing defence on several occasions with the type of midfield legwork we have come to know him for, but struggled to win the battle in his own part of the pitch.
19/22 Saul Niguez – 5 out of 10
One of several Atletico creative outlets who failed to turn up. A night to forget, cut short by his substitution before the hour mark.
20/22 Yannick Carrasco – 6 out of 10
Only threatened Madrid’s backline in glimpses and struggled to find his rhythm, but still a surprising candidate to be replaced when the visitors were in need of a goal.
21/22 Antoine Griezmann – 5 out of 10
Despite a few neat passes to set in his team-mates, not a performance worthy of a £100million player. Too quiet when his side needed him most.
22/22 Kevin Gameiro – 4 out of 10
Should’ve been more decisive when played through for Atleti’s first chance. Paid the price for his wastefulness when replaced by Fernando Torres.
"The first half was imprecise from both teams," Simeone said. "There was always a sense of danger. We couldn't really advance.”
Well, while Atletico seemed oddly imprecise in almost everything they did - reflecting how tentative and hesitant they were about the game - Real were only really imprecise in front of goal, in a game they greatly dominated. There was instead always a sense of danger from the home side and Cristiano Ronaldo, and they could actually have been 3-0 up by the half-hour. That is why it is now almost impossible that Atletico advance.
What's more, you got the sense that the players felt that after the painfully searing second goal, let alone the third. As Ronaldo’s contrastingly forceful shot rose into the back of the net on 73 minutes, and the Bernabeu rose in jubilation, the heads of so many Atletico players so noticeably dropped.
They’d seen this before. They’d felt this before. Consider this illustrative statistic, that appears to further emphasise just how much of a complex Atletico have about their neighbours when it comes to this competition. Since first entering the Champions League in 2013-14, Simeone’s supreme tactics have ensured his side have conceded just 20 goals in 23 knock-out games, including two finals. Nine of them, however, have been scored by Real.
Adding even more on to it all, there was the fact that this was the night when Ronaldo himself ensured he has scored more Champions League goals - at 103 - than Atletico as a club, who have just 100. They need to at least make it 103 to somehow make the final in Cardiff despite this defeat.
Simeone spoke as if they could, but not in a way that suggested they would.
“We have Saturday to compete in the league,” the manager said. “Football is wonderful because unexpected things can happen. I think we still have options.”
Asked what he had said to the players, Simeone stated: ‘Recover, forget it, there's a game on Saturday. Football is marvellous and things can happen. We will give until the last drop.”
Football is wonderful because unexpected things can happen. I think we still have options.
The wonder is whether the last drop has been wrung out of this side. How many defeats like this can they take against their greatest rivals, their greatest source of pain?
“I am calm, more than ever,“ Simeone claimed. “We prepare Saturday, and try to do something impossible. But, as we're called Atletico Madrid, maybe we will be capable of doing it.”
Many would say the exact opposite, precisely because they're called Atletico Madrid and playing a team called Real Madrid.
The away supporters high up in the Bernabeu still sang the club’s name, long after the final whistle.
And why wouldn’t they? The tune hasn't changed elsewhere.
The song remains the same for this fixture.Reuse content