Real Madrid defiant after humbling derby defeat to Atletico
Ronaldo insists Spanish giants will still win the league after 4-0 defeat to local rivals
Cristiano Ronaldo (right) of Real Madrid after Atletico Madrid scored their third goal at Vicente Calderon Stadium. Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Atletico Madrid’s midfielder Saul Niguez (17) scores an overhead against Real Madrid at the Vicente Calderon Stadium. Photograph: Cesar Mansocesar / Getty Images
The champions are now four points behind Real at the top and sit level with Barcelona, who visit Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, but coach Diego Simeone remains pragmatic about their chances of retaining the title.
“We still need to keep going match by match and see what happens,” he told a news conference. “A coach can interpret the game in many different ways but it is the players that need to execute the ideas and they were brilliant. I have to thank the players for the way they played. They were solid and serious and we need to keep going this way.”
Real, who were missing key players defensively but had Cristiano Ronaldo back from suspension, began sluggishly and goalkeeper Iker Casillas was at fault when he allowed a Tiago Cardoso shot to slip under his right hand after 13 minutes.
The goal still did not wake up Real and they quickly conceded another through Saul, who netted in exquisite fashion having come on for the injured Koke.
Guilherme Siqueira sped down the left wing, Saul met his cross with a bicycle kick and the ball flew in off the post. Atletico continued to create chances and Antoine Griezmann went close several times before bundling in a Saul header from close range after 66 minutes, with Raphael Varane slow to react.
A defiant Cristiano Ronaldo said Real are still the stronger side and will finish first in the title race.
“I don’t know why we haven’t won the recent games against Atletico,” Ronaldo told reporters. “Before it was Atletico that found it difficult to win and now it is us. These things go in cycles and we need to be more positive.
“They have a strong team but we are better and we need to show it. We will win the league again.”
Real went into the game without injured centre backs Pepe and Sergio Ramos, as well as left back Marcelo who was suspended, and they never looked comfortable defensively.
Atletico consistently surged forward and in particular the in-form Griezmann found plenty of space. They lost a key creative player in Koke early on but it failed to interrupt Atletico’s impetus while Real were strangely subdued.
Atletico continued to threaten and they ran away with the game in the second half.
“First we have to say sorry to the fans. We were not good enough and we have to congratulate the opposition because they were better,”
Real full-back Dani Carvajal told reporters.
“Maybe the first 30 minutes were the worst we have played at Real Madrid as we were open at the back and we didn’t create chances.”
David Barral scored a hat-trick in Levante’s 4-1 win over Malaga and a late goal from Nolito gave Celta Vigo a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad.