Five things we learned from the clash –
1. The best of a bad result for Real MadridIt has been difficult to ascertain whether the 0-0 draw away from home in the Champions League is either a good or a bad result. Usually, the away goal holds a lot of importance if a team wants to succeed over the two legs and with Madrid having failed to do so, they are left with no room whatsoever to make any errors during the second leg. On the other hand though, Los Blancos have taken a battering at the hands of Atletico during their last three visits to the Vicente Calderon this season and bringing an end to such a rut can be seen as a huge Monkey off of their backs. Only after the second leg is played at the Bernabeu one can know for sure if the 0-0 draw was a good result for Madrid but manager Carlo Ancelotti would perhaps have been relieved at the fact that his side did not suffer another psychologically damaging defeat to their rivals.
2. Madrid could pay for missed chancesWhile Carlo Ancelotti would be secretly pleased with the result against Atletico, the Italian may be left wondering at what could have been if his attackers had been able to convert the chances that were presented to them – especially during the first half. Admittedly, Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak put in a goalkeeper’s clinic on the night by making a host of top quality saves early on in the game but from a hypercritical point of view, the Real frontmen should have done much better with their chances - and indeed their overall performance. Everyone knew that the game would be a tight scrap where chances would be at a premium but when the opportunities did present themselves, the two sides had to grab it with both hands. Unfortunately, the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez could not cash in and it could potentially come back to haunt Madrid in the second leg.
3. However, the fine display at the back keeps the hopes aliveThe Madrid attack certainly disappointed but the same cannot be said about the backline, which put in a lion hearted display to deny the Atletico attack. It is no secret that Atletico adopt an aggressive ‘in your face’ strategy and Real needed to be strong both physically and mentally to avoid being intimidated. And it has to be said that the Real backline marshaled by the inspirational Sergio Ramos was brilliant on the night. The duo of Ramos and Raphael Varane dealt with whatever Atletico had to offer and while the match turned into a scrap at times, the central defensive pairing hardly flinched for a second. Even full backs Marcelo and Dani Carvajal put in an all round performance both in terms of defence as well as marauding forward and describing the overall effort from the backline as a perfect defensive display would probably not be an exaggeration.
4. Dani Carvajal a lucky boyOne can shower Dani Carvajal with a lot of praise for his performance throughout the night but it has to be said that the defender was very fortunate to complete the ninety minutes following a crazy altercation with Atletico striker Mario Mandzukic. After seemingly being elbowed intentionally by Mandzukic, Carvajal reacted by swinging a wild punch at the direction of the striker and it was the young man’s big fortune that the referee missed the altercation. While Carvajal may have felt frustrated by Mandzukic’s gamesmanship, his act of retaliation was in no way justifiable. Mandzukic has been known to rile up opposition defenders and Carvajal should have been well aware of this fact beforehand. Therefore, it is very difficult to defend Carvajal for his act of petulance and if UEFA decide to take retrospective action on the 23-year old, Real face the prospect of being without their first choice full backs for the second leg after Marcelo also picked up a suspension on the night.
5. The tie finely balanced but Real absolutely need to winNot scoring an away goal can be seen as a blow – especially for a side which holds aspirations of going all the way in the competition. By the same token though, avoiding defeat away from home is a good result in anybody’s book and Real should head into the second leg with a slight tinge of confidence. Los Blancos’ record at home is an exemplary one and the task ahead of them is simple – claim a victory on the night. In theory, the job at hand is an achievable one but there are various other factors which come into play as well. Namely, the six match winless streak against Atletico could prove to be a psychological hurdle while given Diego Simeone’s brilliantly marshaled side at the back; it will certainly be very difficult to find the net for the talented Real attack. Nonetheless, anything other than a victory for Madrid is simply not an option and while it will not be straightforward, the fans will be demanding a place in the semi final of the competition.