Diego Costa’s early goal was enough to secure the three points for Atletico de Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, condemning Carlo Ancelotti to his first defeat in La Liga as Real Madrid boss and ensuring Gareth Bale made an unhappy home debut.
Los Blancos started the better of the two teams in the opening exchanges with some crisp passing as they looked to break down a determined and resolute Atletico defence. But the visitors took the lead when Costa raced through and collected a Koke ball and fired low past Diego Lopez in the Madrid goal.
Just like when the two teams last met in May in the Copa del Rey final, Atletico’s team spirit and collective attitude overcame the more technically gifted Real stars on display. Welshman Gareth Bale was named on the bench, with Angel di Maria keeping his place in the side. Asier Illarramendi and Sami Khedira were chosen as the two defensive midfielders to protect the back four.
Once Atletico scored they grew in confidence, pouring forward in numbers when they could and defending in numbers to limit Real to long distance efforts. For all their passing and attempts to find an equaliser, the hosts found it hard to break Atletico down. Bale and Luka Modric were introduced after the break, and the former’s pace proved to be tricky for the visitors to deal with.
Midway through the second half Bale was hauled down just outside the area, only for Cristiano Ronaldo, usually so influential in big games but quiet on the night, to blaze over. At the other end, Diego Lopez made a superb stop to prevent Costa making it 2-0, while Sergio Ramos made a last ditch tackle to deny David Villa doubling the lead.
As the game wore on, Madrid became more desperate for the equaliser, and Atletico more determined to hold on. It meant chances were at a premium, and tempers came close to boiling over, with seven yellow cards handed out.
Atletico held on for the win, and move five points clear of their city rivals.