22
Fri, Sep

The Bernabéu bounced and burst into song, the lyrics ringing around this arena the same that had adorned the huge banner unfurled at the south end before the kick-off. “Tell me how it feels,” they gloated. High in the north end, Atlético’s supporters sat in silence, stunned. This felt terrible. It was happening again, the pain unbearable. For a fourth consecutive year, they had met their rivals and for a fourth consecutive year they had fallen.

 

There will be another meeting between these sides but like all those derbies from an era of dominance Atlético thought they had left behind, it is likely to be irrelevant. Real were leading 3-0, on course for a third final in four years. Five times Cristiano Ronaldo scored against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final; three times he scored against Atlético in the semi-final. The first leg of the semi-final, that is. The first came after 10 minutes, the last after 86. In between them, Atlético did not manage a shot on target for the first time this season.

 

Real’s past 11 goals in this competition had come in the second half and opponents had scored first in each of their four games in the knockout stage, but here a goal arrived early. Ten minutes had gone when Sergio Ramos was given time to cross from right, curling towards Ronaldo, hovering behind Diego Godín. The defender headed out, but only as far as Casemiro, who struck the ball straight back in. He did not hit it well but it bounced up and Ronaldo, six yards out, headed past Jan Oblak.

 

The Bernabéu went wild. On the touchline, Diego Simeone was tapping his head. Think, but about what? It would have been difficult not to think about all those other times, three European defeats in three seasons, all at the hands of Real; difficult not to feel that pessimism returning, the inevitability of it all, the cruelty. Much of the buildup had focused on psychology. “If the past has to weigh on someone, let it be them,” Dani Carvajal had said, and that did appear to be happening.

 

Atlético looked rattled; even when they had the ball – and there were periods when they had a significant amount of it – there was a lack of conviction. They passed but rarely with intent or belief; often it was underhit. Koke swapped sides with Yannick Carrasco, seeking control, and while there was an improvement he was unusually imprecise. When he tried to thread it through gaps, the gaps closed. One superb pass that did cut through Real’s back four found Kévin Gameiro racing alone into the area, but as he slowed momentarily Keylor Navas sprinted towards him and, diving full length, took the ball from his toe.

 

When Atlético looked up, Real stood in their way. On the wings, especially, Atlético were struggling. Lucas Hernández, drafted in at right-back, was not enjoying himself. Oblak had already made a sharp save from Karim Benzema before the goal. After it, Luka Modric struck wide, Raphael Varane’s header was superbly saved and Benzema hit a wonderful overhead kick just past the bar.

 

Atlético’s first shot did not arrive until the half hour, when Antoine Griezmann’s clever free-kick found Godín sliding in at the far post. Real had taken 10 by then, although as the half progressed Atlético did wrestle back some control – they had stemmed the bleeding for now.

 

Atlético had been unexpectedly passive defensively and while there was little danger when they came forward, the good news was that trailed by only one. Real also lost Carvajal, going to ground holding his hamstring at the end of the first half. From full-back, he had been Real’s greatest threat; Marcelo on the other side had also concerned the visitors. Carvajal was replaced by Nacho Fernández who drew applause from the stadium when he won a race with Carrasco.

 

Atlético took a step forward, Real a step back. Yet if they appeared to be dropping too deep, Atlético lacked clarity in the final pass and the counterattack is a weapon Zinedine Zidane’s side use better than anyone. If a lot happened in the first half, little was happening now.

 

Fernando Torres and Nico Gaitín replaced Saúl and Gameiro, then Correa went on for Angel Carrasco, but their impact was minimal. Atlético advanced, but only so far. Ronaldo’s impact, by contrast, was gigantic. Real controlled, rarely suffered, and then hit. They had been the better side almost from the start, but it was not resolved until the end. With 73 minutes gone, Marcelo crossed from the left, Benzema held off Godín and nudged it on for him. Opening up his body, he smashed the shot into the top corner.

 

Soon another followed. Atlético sought the goal that would give them a chance; instead, they conceded the goal that means they surely have no chance. Lucas Vázquez broke up the right and pulled back for Ronaldo to finish with a simple side-foot shot. It was his 103rd Champions League goal, more than Atlético have ever scored.

 

Atletico Madrid extended the contract of 21-year-old centre-back Lucas Hernandez to 2022 on Monday, hoping to ward off interest from a host of Europe's top clubs.

 

"I am very happy to renew with the club I have spent my whole life with," said the French under-21 international who has made 20 appearances this season.

 

"It is great news for all Atletico fans, he is a player with enormous potential with a spectacular future to come," said Atletico's sporting director Jose Luis Caminero.

 

Hernandez looks set to start Tuesday's Champions League semifinal, first leg at Real Madrid with Atletico missing Jose Maria Gimenez, Sime Vrsaljko and Juanfran through injury.

 

His brother Theo Hernandez is also in high demand after a stellar season on loan at Alaves from Atletico with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City among those willing to pay his €24 million release clause.

 

The pair's father Jean-Francois Hernandez also played for Atletico between 2000 and 2001.

Malaga stunned Sevilla with two late strikes in a 4-2 win on Monday to leave Jorge Sampaoli's side still at slight risk of slipping out of the top four in La Liga.

 

Despite two goals from Franco Vazquez, Sevilla's defeat leaves them on 68 points, three behind third-placed Atletico Madrid, but now only five clear of fifth-placed Villarreal – and they still have to visit Real Madrid on May 14.

 

Vazquez opened the scoring at La Rosaleda in the 30th minute after breaking through from midfield, before playmaker Pablo Fornals equalised for the hosts eight minutes later with a rocket from outside the area.

 

Sandro Ramirez put Malaga ahead early in the second half but Vazquez levelled in the 57th minute of a fiercely contested clash after latching on to a loose ball in the box.

 

Malaga moved back ahead in the 77th when Diego Llorente planted a header into the top corner before substitute Juankar added the decisive fourth, snapping up the rebound after Sandro's late penalty was saved.

 

Llorente, whose goal helped move Malaga up to 12th, said: "(The ball) just came to me and I took it well. It's good to get a big win like this in front of our home fans."

 

Sevilla midfielder Vazquez added: "We only have ourselves to blame. We made mistakes that you cannot make."

 

Sampaoli's side have slumped after being eliminated from the Champions League and if their bad form continues into their final three matches then Fran Escriba's Villarreal could yet take advantage.

 

Villarreal, though, must face Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Saturday before their potentially winnable games against Deportivo La Coruna and Valencia.

Celta Vigo were beaten for the fifth time in six La Liga games, going down 3-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday with the Galicians distracted by Thursday's Europa League semifinal against Manchester United.

 

Eduardo Berizzo made nine changes from the side that started Thursday's 2-1 defeat at Sevilla and Athletic's greater desire for the points showed as they boosted their bid to qualify for next season's Europa League.

 

Raul Garcia struck either side of halftime before Mikel Rico wrapped up a vital three points for the visitors to take them above Basque rivals Real Sociedad into sixth.

 

Elsewhere, Leganes failed to take a step closer to survival as they were beaten 2-0 at Eibar.

 

Alaves came from a goal down to thrash Real Betis 4-1.

 

And Deportivo la Coruna moved eight points clear of the relegation zone with just three games remaining thanks to a 2-2 draw at already relegated Osasuna.