Zi­dane in­spires Real Madrid to derby vic­tory over Atletico

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Madrid, Spain - Zine­dine Zi­dane’s dou­ble sub­sti­tu­tion at half-time trans­formed the Madrid derby on Satur­day as Real Madrid edged past Atletico 1-0 to move six points clear at the top of La Liga.

Karim Ben­zema scored the win­ner at the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu af­ter Zi­dane’s de­ci­sive in­ter­ven­tion turned a con­test that Atletico had dom­i­nated into an­other com­fort­able Real Madrid vic­tory.

Vini­cius Ju­nior, one of the sub­sti­tutes, was a key to the goal.

Sec­ond-place Barcelona can cut the gap back to three points by beat­ing Le­vante at home on Sun­day but Atletico now trail the lead­ers by 13 points.

While Diego Sime­one’s side were ex­cel­lent in the first half, they were yet again blunt in front of goal and then failed to re­spond when their op­po­nents found a dif­fer­ent gear.

This is Atletico’s fifth game with­out a win. The worry is that on this form, they should worry not about the ti­tle race but about miss­ing out on Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

It is a far cry from pre-sea­son when Atletico thrashed Real 73 and many were tip­ping them as se­ri­ous chal­lengers.

Zi­dane was un­der pres­sure then, but his team are on a re­lent­less run, now 21 games un­beaten, the lat­est due in large part to his changes.

The de­ci­sion to ditch a fail­ing sys­tem and re­vert to 4-3-3, with Vinicuis Ju­nior and Lu­cas Vazquez com­ing on for Isco and Toni Kroos, was both brave and ef­fec­tive.

Sime­one’s side were sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter in the first half and should have taken one of a hand­ful of de­cent chances as Vi­tolo hit Thibaut Cour­tois, Saul Niguez flashed wide and An­gel Cor­rea poked past the post af­ter go­ing through one-on-one, even if he prob­a­bly would have been called off­side.

Real Madrid’s clus­ter of cen­tral mid­field­ers looked un­sure of their 4-3-2-1 shape. Fede Valverde looked par­tic­u­larly un­com­fort­able as he spent much of the first half as a right winger. Luka Mo­dric was vir­tu­ally anony­mous in his more ad­vanced role.

Zi­dane’s dou­ble change was a recog­ni­tion of Atletico's su­pe­ri­or­ity as he re­verted to the more fa­mil­iar 4-3-3 with Mo­dric deeper in mid­field.

The bal­ance shifted im­me­di­ately. Real dom­i­nated the start of the sec­ond half.

In the 56th minute, Vini­cius cut in from the left and slipped in the over­lap­ping Fer­land Mendy, whose cross to the back post gave Ben­zema a sim­ple fin­ish.

Atletico had been weak­ened shortly be­fore when Al­varo Mo­rata, per­haps the best player on the pitch in the first 45 min­utes, went off with an in­jury. He was re­placed by Thomas Le­mar, whom Sime­one ex­pected to be sold in the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow. Valverde en­joyed a spon­ta­neous stand­ing ova­tion for a burst for­ward, an ap­pre­ci­a­tion too per­haps for his bril­liant break­through sea­son. An­other roar of ap­proval greeted the fi­nal whis­tle.

Other re­sult:

Granada 2 Es­panyol 1

GER­MAN LEAGUE Haa­land dou­ble takes Dort­mund home

Ber­lin, Ger­many - Er­ling Braut Haa­land made it seven goals in three games for Borus­sia Dort­mund af­ter scor­ing a dou­ble in Satur­day’s 5-0 Bundesliga thrash­ing of Union Ber­lin while Bay­ern Mu­nich went top of the ta­ble.

The 19 year old Haa­land, who had net­ted five times in his first two ap­pear­ances since sign­ing from Salzburg, scored ei­ther side of half-time at Sig­nal Iduna Park af­ter be­ing handed his first Dort­mund start by coach Lu­cien Favre.

Haa­land’s tally is the most by any Bundesliga player in their first three league matches.

Dort­mund moved to third in the ta­ble, three points be­hind lead­ers Bay­ern Mu­nich, who beat Mainz 3-1.

Pre­vi­ous lead­ers RB Leipzig can re­gain top spot if they later beat fourth-placed Borus­sia Moenchengl­ad­bach at home.

In Mainz, goals by Robert Le­wandowski, Thomas Mueller and Thi­ago Al­can­tara sealed Bay­ern’s away win to go two points clear.

Bay­ern wasted no time tak­ing the lead de­spite the sod­den con­di­tions as the Bundesliga's top scorer Le­wandowski net­ted his 22nd league goal af­ter just eight min­utes to her­ald a pow­er­ful first-half by the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons.

Mueller hit their sec­ond on 14 min­utes, fin­ish­ing a move he started af­ter Le­wandowski and Leon Goret­zka shred­ded Mainz’s de­fence.

Al­can­tara made it 3-0 on 30 min­utes by beat­ing three de­fend­ers with su­perb foot­work be­fore smash­ing his shot past Mainz goal­keeper Robin Zent­ner.

Goret­zka played an un­lucky part in the Mainz goal when a header by de­fender Jeremiah St Juste can­noned off the back of his head and beat Bay­ern goal­keeper Manuel Neuer on the stroke of half-time.

Fifth-placed Lev­erkusen lost ground in the ta­ble when they went down 2-1 at Hof­fen­heim thanks to goals from striker An­drej Kra­maric and Dan­ish de­fender Robert Skov.

A Ti­mothy Chan­dler header just be­fore the whis­tle res­cued a point for Ein­tra­cht Frankfurt in their 1-1 draw at For­tuna Dues­sel­dorf, who moved off the bot­tom.

It was For­tuna’s first game un­der new coach Uwe Roesler, who took charge on Wed­nes­day in a bid to avoid rel­e­ga­tion.

Augs­burg went ninth af­ter they came from be­hind to beat Werder Bre­men 2-1 with goals by Flo­rian Nieder­lech­ner and Ruben Var­gas af­ter their de­fender Tin Jed­vaj had scored an early own goal.

Karim Ben­zema

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