Tactical Analysis: Madrid leave it late to win the Decima

The Los Blancos came from behind but take advantage of an Atletico side exhausted and drained in extra time..
By Shikharr Chandra

Real Madrid needed a stoppage time goal from Sergio Ramos to take the game into extra time as they came from behind to win the tie. They took advantage of an Atletico side looking short of ideas and fitness in the final half an hour of the game.

Madrid started the game with Karim Benzema who was a doubt following his injury in the final La Liga game but Carlo Ancelotti looked to continue with his favoured attacking trio of 'BBC' in a 4-3-3 formation with Sami Khedira coming in for the suspended Xabi Alonso.

Diego Simeone on the other hand opted to go for a 4-4-2 with Diego Costa deemed fit to play alongside David Villa. The Argentine's gamble though to start the Spanish striker did not pay off as he was taken off inside the first 10 minutes of the game and replaced by Adrian Lopez.

The pattern of the game involved Atletico sitting back and absorbing the pressure Real threw at them from the start and things seemed to work for Rojiblancos until the dying moments of regulation time.

Madrid's midfield gamble did not pay off

The biggest task for Ancelotti was to find a way to make do without Alonso. While Assier Illaramendi looked the obvious choice, the gamble to go with Khedira alongside Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria did not pay off.

The German who had played only 61 minutes since his ACL injury never really settled into the game and was taken off before the hour mark for Isco. Atletico's high pressing and quickness was at times difficult to handle for the Madrid side.

Alonso's best trait is that he provides a link between the defense and the attack and Madrid missed that dearly. His absence meant more pressure was on Modric who looked good for most of the game but was finding it hard to support the attack.

The German on the other hand looked lost and failed to link up well with the wingers. Khedira managed only one successful take on and lost five of the six aerial duels he had attemped in the game.

His replacement Isco though offered more in attack as well as in the defensive part of the game. While his tackling remained at 50%, he had two successful clearances alongwith 4 take-ons and created three chances in the final third after coming on.

Atletico work well in limiting Madrid's key men

The biggest test for Atletico was to stop the three frontmen of Real Madrid. 'BBC' as they are called have been on a free scoring run in the Champions League this season especially Ronaldo who has broken all records in this edition of the competition. Atletico though worked well to stop the trio until the extra time.

Ronaldo was limited to very few chances in the game from open play. The best chance came through a header from a corner which went just wide. Bale on the other hand had three of the best chances of the game for Madrid but never really imposed himself on the Atletico side.

Madrid's best chance in the first half came from an error by Tiago, which Bale scuffed wide and while the wingers had a tad more freedom in the second half, Atletico's resolute defending did not allow them much space.

Benzema on the other hand failed to find his feet in the game. He was constantly bullied by the Atletico defense and with Madrid's wingers not at their best as well, chances were limited for the Frenchman who was taken off for Alvaro Morata later on in the game.

Madrid's key player: Di Maria

If there was one man in the game who deserved a goal for his efforts, it was Di Maria. The Argentine was easily the most influential player in the Madrid side and his performance was vital as Bale and Ronaldo struggled for form in the game.

The winger's speed and skill meant that he was a constant threat for the Atletico defense and it was his assist in extra time that turned out to be the defining moment of the game. The Argentine did extremely well to get past two Atletico defenders before seeing his shot scuffed by Thibaut Courtois but ultimately landing in Bale's path to head home, giving Madrid the lead.

Di Maria was at the center of everything Madrid did in the attack. His pass combination with Fabio Coentrao and then Sergio Ramos was the highest in the game. He completed 56 of his 71 passes in the game, the most by a Madrid player in the attacking half.

He looked like the only player capable of running past the stern Atletico defense and providing that moment of magic Madrid needed so dearly.

Atletico's key player: Godin

It was heartbreak in the end for Atletico but one man stepped up once again when it mattered the most. Diego Godin's performance for the second week running was outstanding as he not only put in a fine defensive shift in the game but his first half goal could have won Atletico the illustrious cup.

Godin played a key role in stopping Benzema in attack as he hardly allowed the Frenchman any space. The center back lost only one tackle out of the five he had attempted and had a 82% clearance rate in the game.

Atletico's physicality

Atletico's game plan was simple and it seemed it would pay off until the final few seconds. The La Liga champions have based their game around counter attacking and high pressing football and thrived on that in the final as well.

Atletico's midfield led by captain Gabi was physically imposing and their high pressing troubled the Madrid midfield. Simeone's men targeted Khedira and were successful as well on most occassions.

After taking the lead, Atletico decided to sit back and absorb the pressure that came their way. They took advantage of their physical style of football and often cut down Madrid's attacks by resorting to old school tactics of fouling the player rather than allowing him to progress.

They put in a good shift with even the strikers joining in the defense. David Villa's performance in the defensive third was excellent to watch as the former Barcelona striker's work rate was first class.

Atletico changed their shape from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 as the game progressed in order to provide more support to the defense.

Madrid take advantage of Atletico's  exhaustion

The only way Atletico could have won the game was in the first 90 minutes, after that it was pretty obvious the Rojiblancos were keen to settle for a penalty shootout by somehow withstanding the pressure of Madrid's attacks. That was unfortunately not the case as Madrid made them pay for their lethargic display towards the end of the game.

The major issue with Simeone's men this season has been their lack of options in the squad and the side has used almost the same starting eleven and substitutes for most of the season and it was pretty obvious that the side would show signs of fatigue as the game progressed.

Bale and Ronaldo who were limited well in the 90 minutes got more freedom as extra time began. Both were rewarded for their relentless pressure. Marcelo added more dimension to the Madrid attack and Di Maria was an everpresent figure going forward as well.

Simeone's men hardly troubled Iker Casillas at the back as it was all Madrid in the final half an hour of the game and although the scoreline in the end does not give a fair idea of the encounter, there was no way back for Atletico Madrid after Bale's goal.

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