Trailing Madrid rivals at half-time, Real were in danger of not only facing defeat in the capital derby for the first time since 1999, but falling behind Barcelona, who had secured a vital three away points at Mallorca earlier in the weekend.
Traditionally quick off the mark against Los Rojiblancos over the past few years, it was the visitors who would score thanks to sloppy Real defensive play. The home side quickly turned away doubt at the Santiago Bernabeu and after a quick-fire start to the second half Pellegrini’s men erased the one goal deficit, scoring three times in thirteen minutes.
The victory maintains Real Madrid’s place at the top of the league albeit on goal differentce, with Barcelona’s visit to the Spanish capital looming less than a fortnight away.
Since Madrid’s embarrassing departure from the Champions League at the hands of Lyon, Los Blancos have continued their first-rate league form, convincingly beating the likes Getafe, Gijon and Valladolid. Sunday’s victory, however, was a little less convincing as holder’s Barcelona return for the second leg of El Clasico, with Leo Messi looking as unstoppable as ever scoring hat-tricks in consecutive matches versus Valencia and Zaragoza.
Real Madrid did little to threaten the incredibly weak defensive line of Aletico with Higuain’s winner coming off an atrocious defensive mistake. The first forty minutes of the game, Real did little to threaten De Gea’s net and when given opportunities threw them away.
Xabi Alonso was the star for the home side. The Spaniard’s redirection of a header may have been the equalizer but his roll-in for the second was much more impressive. Facing his own net, Alonso picked out Arbeloa making an ambitious run down the right flank of the pitch. Alonso proceeded to turn and play a perfect ball down the sideline to Arbeloa’s chest, leaving the defender with the easier of the two tasks to bury it in the Atleti net.
Alonso celebrates his equalizer
Manuel Pellegrini reiterated his concerns for his side following what he considered a well-fought victory. A trip North to Racing Santander this weekend before Los Blancos attempt to maintain their perfect fifteen for fifteen home league record against Barcelona. Only nine games remain in the league and with both teams level on seventy-four points, this meeting of the two Spanish giants may very well decide the league.
Madrid’s defence has shown weakness at points throughout the season and with Messi on form, the match up created by the capital side’s back four versus the Argentine superstar may also be the deciding factor in this crucial fixture. Pellegrini and his men will be hoping that Barcelona’s Champions League tie with Arsenal will be keeping their Catalan rivals preoccupied while Los Blancos try and secure three very important points at Santander this weekend.