2018/19 in Pictures: Games 35 and 36

Two very different Madrid Derbies are the focus of this latest update!

Game 35: Rayo Vallecano B 1-0 Leganés B (Ciudad Deportiva de Rayo Vallecano, Madrid – 3.2.2019)

Unable to attend the the La Liga meeting between Rayo and Lega due to it being scheduled for Monday night, I settled for the next best thing – watching their B teams play each other in the Madrid Tercera!

This meant a new ground for me (the first of 2019) as I headed out on Line 1 to the Ciudad Deportivo de Rayo Vallecano, located about a 15-minute walk from the La Gavia stop. €10 gave me access to the whole complex for the afternoon, although this was the only game actually being played at the time.

The game wasn’t a classic, but was definitely a decent way to spend a sunny, albeit slightly chilly Sunday afternoon.

The first half was an even enough contest, with both sides having chances to break the deadlock. The similarities between these sides and their senior teams were clear to see. Leganés had a number of strong, imposing defensive players and Rayo a lot of frustrating wingers and forwards.

My initial assessment of the Leganés goalkeeper Cortes was that he was a wooden one, he flapped at a few early crosses and then almost gifted Rayo an open goal with a horribly misplaced pass. Yet by the end of the day he had proved to be his side’s best player and was unlucky to end up on the losing side.

At half time I took a walk around the complex and found the on-site café, which was sadly closed. A real downside to this ground was the lack of any catering – not ideal when I had headed there before having lunch.

Back to the match and I began to get the dreaded feeling that it would end 0-0. Cortes was in fine form, making a couple of excellent saves to keep his side level. Rayo really piled on the pressure after Leganés were reduced to ten men, Raúl getting a straight red card for a wild challenge, and they were rewarded in injury time as Carrasco finally beat Cortes, his shot striking the crossbar and bouncing down over the line.

Game 36: Atlético Madrid 1-3 Real Madrid (Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid – 9.2.2019)

This was the big one. Possibly the biggest club match I’ve ever attended and thankfully it lived up to expectations. At €120 for a ticket, it wasn’t cheap but I could justify it as a one-off and as an early birthday present to myself.

The last few league meetings between the two sides have been tight, scrappy affairs but this was nothing of the sort – both managers’ starting XIs indicated that they were going for it from the off.

Atlético started the better, albeit without really testing Thibaut Courtois, who was pelted with toy rats and whistles throughout, before Real Madrid took the lead.

A corner was awarded, overruled, then awarded and then retaken and this confusion seemed to affect the Atlético defence who totally neglected to mark Casemiro, who beat Oblak with an acrobatic finish from Ramos’ knock-down.

Atlético then hit back, Antoine Griezmann was put clean through and he copy beat Courtois with a low, placed finish. 1-1 and game on! Or was it? The linesman was flagging. From where I was, there was no way it could have been offside so I had no idea why VAR was being consulted. It was only in checking social media after the goal was awarded that I saw the challenge in the build up which probably should have led to the goal being ruled out. But didn’t, so on we go.

Just before the break VAR was involved again. Atlético conceded possession cheaply in the middle of the park and Vinicius raced into the penalty area before being upended. The ref went to VAR, and awarded the spot kick, which was converted low and hard by Sergio Ramos. No panenka today sadly. The replays actually appeared to show the foul started outside the area. Not a good day for the referee so far.

The second half began with Atlético pushing for the equaliser and looked to have tied things up when Alvaro Morata lobbed Courtois on –minutes.

The Wanda Metropolitano erupted… Oh wait, VAR again. And this time the goal didn’t stand. The reason? An offside so marginal that I’ve not been able to spot it.

Morata was not having the best day at the office and this was further underlined when he was upended by Casemiro inside the six-yard box and the ref (no VAR this time) rules that it wasn’t a penalty. To compound his miserable home debut, Morata was then booked for a tangle with Ramos and almost immediately afterwards was hooked for Nikola Kalinić.

Atlético faded badly after that and it was no real surprise when Gareth Bale added a third to seal the win – and mark an important personal milestone with his 100th goal for the club. A red card for Thomas Partey, a needless second booking, only added insult to injury for the home side, who found themselves behind their great rivals in the league table for the first time since October.

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