Cristiano Ronaldo’s first league goal this season has proven profitable for Real Madrid. He made us wait, the strike not coming until the 85th minute of a difficult match against Getafe, but it send Madrid up to second in the table, temporarily, depending on Valencia’s result on Sunday. It was a good goal, the Portuguese finishing implacably from a marvellous ball by Isco. Shortly beforehand Cristiano had missed an absolute sitter in front of an open goal. When he scored, he shook his arm as if to say “at last!” The curse is lifted. That goal, combined with a wonderful effort from Karim Benzema, was sufficient to earn victory against Getafe, whose equaliser was an own goal shared between Nacho and Marcos Llorente and with the attendant Jorge Molina in an offside position.
Later, Madrid were able to sit back, relax, and watch the game at the Metropolitano, where there was little relaxation on show. It was an exciting encounter right up to the end, when Leo Messi’s free kick was trapped by Jan Oblak. After the game, a Madrid-supporting friend said to me: “Supporting Atlético must be a blast at the moment.” And indeed it is. Diego Simeone’s side were immense in a fluctuating first half, during which they protected their keeper expertly (Oblak did not have a save to make in the opening 45 minutes) and also created chances at the other end. Saúl’s splendid strike separated the sides at half time and Antoine Griezmann drew a couple of fine saves from Marc-André Ter Stegen, one of them after nutmegging Gerard Piqué, to the amusement of the home support.
But in the second half Atlético collapsed. With faith, willingness and positioning, Barcelona pinned the home side back. The pitch was squeezed into the area around Oblak’s goal, which was guarded well by the Slovenia international, who is an excellent keeper, efficient and lacking in any pretentiousness. Barcelona missed Messi’s magic, perhaps because he was tired, or just hollow, after the state of grace he achieved in Quito. Barcelona’s equaliser was late in coming as well. Luis Suárez scored it, with a good header, and he celebrated it with one of these stupid and provocative ceremonies that are a blemish on the game. Barcelona continued their charge, right up until Messi’s free kick that Oblak saved, leaving both Madrid and Atlético fans to breathe more easily.