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Atlético Madrid wreck Real title hopes through Antoine Griezmann

Atlético Madrid players celebrated their 1-0 win against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu. Photograph: Ruben Albarran/Rex/ShutterstockAtlético Madrid players celebrated their 1-0 win against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu. Photograph: Ruben Albarran/Rex/Shutterstock

Real Madrid’s anthem, blasted out over the loudspeakers at the Santiago Bernabéu at the full-time whistle, could not drown out the whistles as a 1-0 derby defeat meant they virtually bade farewell to the league title for another season. Around the stadium, some waved white hankies in protest. A few minutes before, as the final minutes ticked away, there had been fans chanting for the club’s president, Florentino Pérez, to resign – 10 years to the day since the last time he walked out with the original galáctico project collapsing around him.

It is still February but a solitary league title in eight seasons does not just look possible, it now looks probable, after Antoine Griezmann’s second-half goal gave Atlético victory in a largely dull derby. There could be few real complaints fromReal Madrid about a result that leaves them nine points behind Barcelona, who have a game in hand on Sunday night, against Sevilla. It also leaves them four points behind Atlético, who have now defeated them here in the league in each of the last three seasons.

When Real could manage only a 1-1 draw at Málaga last Sunday, Sergio Ramos said: “If we slip up again, we can forget it.” Six days later, they did. The way it happened was symptomatic, too: an anaemic performance and a defeat that was consummated when Griezmann was allowed to advance unchallenged, in the 53rd minute. Filipe Luís came to assist him; no one came to assist Real’s back four.

Griezmann began his journey from right to left in the space between Real’s midfield and back four, running diagonally and unchallenged, once he had slipped way from the first tackle. With Dani Carvajal drawn in towards his central defenders, the space that had opened up on the Atlético left was enormous. The entire stadium could see the pass and so too could Griezmann, but he had to wait to deliver it as Filipe Luís tried to catch up with his team-mate.

When he eventually got there, Griezmann played the ball to him and he played it straight back. The Frenchman sidefooted home first time. It was his 13th goal of the season and his first in five games.

Atlético had the lead after a first half in which there had been only two shots on target, the score combining with the performance to increase the frustration.

James Rodríguez was withdrawn to whistles, heading straight down the tunnel having had no impact on the game and from the stands some fans chanted for Pérez to resign. It would not be the last time. Real tried to find a way back into this game; tellingly, they did so with three substitutions, all three of them youth-team players. Mayoral, Lucas and Jesé came on for Karim Benzema, James and Isco.

There was attitude now, application too, but not a huge amount else, in truth. Lucas almost caught out Filipe Luís and Mayoral twice took on shots, then almost created an opportunity from the left. Danilo tumbled, wanting a penalty, but the referee, Carlos Clos Gómez, waved for him to get up. Sergio Ramos was increasingly keen to head forward from the back but rarely able to. And even though Atlético – who had not arrived home from Eindhoven until 7am on Thursday – were tiring now, even if the clearances became a little more desperate, a draw did not seem likely.

Augusto Fernández was taken off, suffering cramp, and Madrid pressed, but although there was a certain momentum there was not much clarity. Another Cristiani Ronaldo header, leaping to reach a high, looped ball, drew another simple catch for Jan Oblak. And with two minutes left, Danilo bombed up the left but his cross slipped away, taking Real’s hopes of winning the title with it. – theguardian –

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Atlético Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann
Atlético Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann pulls the trigger before scoring the only goal of the game against Rayo Vallecano. Photograph: Francisco

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