Thibaut Courtois overcame the jeers and Gareth Bale delivered a timely reminder of his talents as Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 3-1 in a feisty city derby yesterday. Real’s fifth league win in a row means they sit second for the first time since September, above Atletico, and just five points behind Barcelona.
Barca could restore that gap to eight by overcoming Athletic Bilbao on Sunday but another impressive performance at the Wanda Metropolitano, aided by some fortunate decisions, puts Real back in the thick of the title race. Bale had been left out of the starting line-up for the second time in four days after he was also a substitute against Barca in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. The Welshman’s goal, his 100th for Real Madrid, will not have been lost on coach Santiago Solari and ended Atletico’s hopes of a comeback after Sergio Ramos’ penalty put Real in front at half-time, with Antoine Griezmann earlier canceling out Casemiro’s acrobatic opener. By the time Thomas Partey was sent off with 10 minutes left, the game was up, and Courtois could have been forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief at the final whistle.
The Belgian, who spent three years at Atletico, was playing in the white of Real for the first time at the home of his former club. He was whistled when he came out alone to warm-up when he emerged again with his team-mates and then before kick-off too, as the Atletico ultras behind the goal hurled dozens of toy rats towards his head. A sign read, ‘Thibaut - Rata’, just to underline the point. Alvaro Morata had gone the opposite way, also via Chelsea, now for Atleti after starting out at Real Madrid. He was cheered and, despite a quiet game, would have scored but for VAR ruling out an impressive job in the second half.
Isco was left out completely after pulling up with a back complaint in training on Friday. Diego Simeone picked Saul Niguez in midfield ahead of the more defensive Rodrigo. His team were fired up and first to everything early on, as Griezmann and Thomas unleashed shots while Dani Carvajal and Sergio Reguilon were rushed into panicked clearances