Feisty Madrid derby ends 0-0 to Barcelona

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Atletico Madrid and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/teams/real-madrid/" data-ylk="slk:Real Madrid">Real Madrid</a> canceled each other out at the Metropolitano on Saturday. (Getty)
Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid canceled each other out at the Metropolitano on Saturday. (Getty)

The first Madrid derby of the 2017-18 La Liga season featured plenty of midfield duels, crunching tackles and penalty shouts. It featured arguments, a broken and bloody nose and “orange card” challenges. The one thing it didn’t feature was a goal.

Because it didn’t, its winner was no longer in Madrid at the final whistle. Barcelona was heading back north after heaping pressure onto the trailing pack with a 3-0 victory at Leganes. The 0-0 draw at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano hours later left both Real and Atletico trailing the Catalan giants by 10 points each, and left title hopes beginning to flutter away into the Spanish night.

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It’s too early to call the title race over, of course. But whereas Barcelona keeps on winning, Real keeps on sputtering. Its attack looks as fractured as Sergio Ramos’ septum. The Cristiano Ronaldo-Karim Benzema-Isco triangle was deformed – kicked, pushed and clattered out of shape by Atletico’s technically gifted enforcers.

Both sides wanted three points. Atletico boss Diego Simeone even sacrificed defensive midfielder Thomas Partey for winger Yannick Carrasco. He threw on Fernando Torres and Kevin Gameiro. Gameiro had a dinked shot cleared off the line with 12 minutes remaining.

The game finally heated up and opened up in the final 15 minutes. Before then, the highlights might have been a pair of foot races won by 32-year-old Atletico right back Juanfran:

Or a boot to Ramos’ face:

There was one chance. One real chance. One real miss. And it was a guilt-edged one. But if you had arrived at the match five minutes late, you would have missed it. Angel Correa was in alone inside three minutes, but casually flipped his finish wide.

Ronaldo was Real’s danger-man, but he was a step off the pace for much of the evening. Atletico’s defending was also heroic at times. Lucas Hernandez came out of nowhere to put in a sliding block on Ronaldo late.

Based on the balance of play, neither team could be particularly disappointed with the point. But based on the first three months of the La Liga season, both were.

The 90 minutes were a continuation of a theme. Neither Real nor Atletico has been quite good enough; quite clinical enough; quite polished enough. Barcelona hasn’t always been machine-like on the pitch either, but its results have been. It has only dropped two points – at Atletico a month ago. It’s been perfect against the rest of the league while the two teams from the capital have slipped up.

They are now both four games – three wins and a draw – behind the La Liga leaders. And neither is celebrating following their biggest match of the season so far. Barcelona is.

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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