Rodrygo and Federico Valverde were on the scoresheet as Real Madrid recorded a 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid in Sunday night’s Madrid derby at Wanda Metropolitano.
Both of Real Madrid’s goals came in the first half of the contest in the Spanish capital, with Carlo Ancelotti’s team proving to be too strong for their bitter rivals, who had one back late on through Mario Hermoso.
The win has seen Real Madrid return to the top of the La Liga table ahead of Barcelona, while they have made it nine straight successes in all competitions at the start of the 2022-23 campaign, including their opening six league games.
Antoine Griezmann came in for the first start of the campaign, with the Frenchman partnering Joao Felix in the final third of the field.
There has been a host of speculation surrounding Griezmann’s future due to the complexity surrounding his loan move from Barcelona, with Diego Simeone’s side allegedly committed to paying £35m for the attacker next summer if he appears in at least 45 minutes of 14 of Atletico’s matches this term.
As for Real Madrid, fit-again Eder Militao replaced Antonio Rudiger in the middle of the defence, while it was Rodrygo as the false nine in the continued absence of Karim Benzema.
After a red-hot start, with a number of fouls taking place in the early exchanges, Atletico had the first half-chance of the contest in the sixth minute when Felipe climbed high to meet a deep free kick from Marcos Llorente, but his header dropped onto the top of the net.
Yannick Carrasco then had a shot deflected just wide of the Real Madrid goal in the 12th minute, before Felix’s goal-bound effort from the resulting corner was blocked, with Atletico starting the better on home soil.
Geoffrey Kondogbia whistled one wide in the 17th minute, but it was Real Madrid that made the breakthrough less than a minute later when Aurelien Tchouameni’s excellent pass was converted by Rodrygo on the half-volley.
Griezmann came close to a leveller in the 25th minute when he broke clear of a couple of Real Madrid challenges before striking towards goal, but Thibaut Courtois was on hand to make a brilliant save to his left, before Kondogbia headed wide from close range moments later.
Real Madrid doubled their lead in the 36th minute when Valverde fired home at the far post after Vinicius Junior had broken into the Atletico box and struck the woodwork.
Atletico boss Simeone made two changes just past the hour, with Alvaro Morata and Matheus Cunha replacing Rodrigo De Paul and Felix, and the home side were enjoying more and more of the ball as the half developed.
Real Madrid continued to hold firm in a defensive area, though, and were always a threat on the counter-attack due to the pace of Rodrygo and Vinicius.
The two substitutions saw Atletico switch to a 4-4-2, with Griezmann dropping into a deeper area, but clear opportunities were hard to find for Atletico, who are now eight points off their rivals in the table.
There were two more changes for the hosts 15 minutes from time, with Angel Correa and Hermoso replacing Carrasco and Koke, as Simeone desperately looked for the key to unlock the door.
Ancelotti responded by introducing Rudiger for Mendy, with David Alaba moving across to left-back, and Los Blancos continued to hold firm as the home side’s frustrations grew.
Atletico had one back in the 83rd minute, though, with Hermoso using his back to convert a corner from Griezmann after Courtois had missed the ball inside the penalty box.
Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio were introduced shortly after, and there were some nervy moments for Real Madrid in the final exchanges, but the reigning Spanish and European champions held on to secure all three points, while Atletico finished with 10 men as Hermoso picked up a second yellow card late on.
Real Madrid will be back in La Liga action after the international break against Osasuna, while Atletico’s next league contest will see them travel to Sevilla.