Real edge 10-man Atletico in eighth Madrid derby to reach CL semis
Seven times Real Madrid had tried to beat neighbours Atletico Madrid since needing extra time to beat them in last term’s Champions League final, and seven times they failed.
Finally, at the eighth time of asking, in Spanish capital derbies that have become so familiar as to breed further contempt, Los Blancos knocked their rivals out of this season’s European elite club competition thanks to a late Bernabeu winner from forgotten man Javier Hernandez.
Atleti lost Arda Turan to a second booking before conceding, though Slovenian stopper Jan Oblak was by far the busier goalkeeper. Carlo Ancelotti’s men asked more questions of Diego Simeone’s La Liga champions, despite the absence of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.
Hernandez fired into the side-netting early on when James Rodriguez slipped him in. Chicharito then found former Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in space, but the Portugal star dragged wide.
Rodriguez curled a free-kick over midway through a bitty first-half broken up by niggling fouls. Atletico full back Jesus Gamez worked Iker Casillas in the home goal with a long-range effort before Turan picked up his first yellow for stopping Toni Kroos breaking forward.
A trademark Ronaldo free-kick forced Oblak to parry, and the visiting keeper thwarted the Real attacker just before the break when he looked to punish a rare Atleti error.
Hernandez’s shot on the turn went across and wide when found by Isco’s through-ball just after the break. Turkey international Turan was later tempted into challenging for a bouncing ball with Sergio Ramos, but got the man instead resulting in an early bath.
Having to play out the last 15 minutes a man light took its toll on Simeone’s side, with organisation and discipline that are hallmarks of his Atletico outfit going out of the window as Real stretched them.
Oblak turned behind a Hernandez effort, but could do nothing two minutes from time when Ronaldo played a one-two with Rodriguez and squared to the Mexico marksman for a tap in. Had his poaching instincts been sharper, a skill only honed by regular football, then this may have been more academic.
Winning ugly like this won’t matter to Ancelotti and Los Blancos who have finally got one over their neighbours. Failing to beat them in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup will pale if Real can become the first side in modern times to retain the Champions League, which is now a 3/1 chance with Coral.