There are probably no better goalkeepers in the world at the moment and Thibaut Courtois and Jan Oblak, at least, will be happy with a Madrid derby that ended goal-less.
Courtois kept out his former team Atletico Madrid saving from both Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann in the first half. And Oblak – the man who replaced him at Atletico Madrid – matched his opposite number with an outstanding performance topped by one stop from Marco Asensio in the second period.
First blood in the first half, was literally drawn by Sergio Ramos who clashed with Saul when both players contested a corner. He needed treatment but not stitches and was soon back on the pitch.
Atletico had the first clear chance on 18 minutes when Koke sent Griezmann through. He only had Courtois to beat but Courtois made sure there was a lot of him to beat, standing tall and blocking the goal-bound shot with his head.
Saul then scythed down Gareth Bale as he tried to get away wide left and the Atletico midfielder was lucky not to be booked.
Bale almost took revenge by scoring the first of the game. Toni Kroos swung a deep free-kick to the back post but the Welshman’s left-foot volley went wide.
The temperature was turned up a notch when Dani Carvajal was booked for taking the ball off of Koke and taking a chunk of Koke too. Casemiro then appeared to handle in the area but the referee waved away the claims for a spot kick. Meanwhile Ramos’ wound was reopening and he was ordered off to clean up his cut head.
Atletico broke quickly with Griezmann’s pass sending Costa clear and again it was Courtois who stood tall and batted the shot away at his near post for a corner.
Costa had gone past Varane in blur but the big Belgian had saved the shot and so Costa’s wait for a league goal – he has not scored since February continued.
Bale then tested Oblak at the other end with a left-footed shot from distance coming in off the right wing. The visiting keeper then kicked the ball straight to Asensio and got lucky when it hit the forward and bounced back into the keeper’s arms. He deserved his stroke of good fortune.
It was 0-0 at the break had been anything but a dull much-to-do-about-nothing-nothing. Both sides had good reason to believe they could win it in the second period but Madrid would have to do it without Bale who was withdrawn at half-time with an injury in his right groin.
The pace did not drop and on the hour Ramos nearly got himself sent off. He swiped substitute Angel Correa with his palm. It was under the referee assistant’s nose and when he raised his flag the referee could easily have pulled out red instead of a yellow card.
Madrid had gained a midfield advantage with Dani Ceballos’ introduction for Bale. Diego Simeone responded by taking off Costa and throwing on Thomas Partey.
Atletico had the next chance when Diego Godin gave the ball straight to Marco Asensio but Jose Gimenez steamed across to put out the fire. Carvajal then overlapped onto Modric’s pass but again Oblak was there to save.
With 10 minutes left Asensio could have sealed it but Oblak made his best save. This was the first time in seven years that Real Madrid have failed to score in two straight games.
With three minutes left Julen Lopetegui took his last threw of the dice. Vinicius Junior aged only 18 years and two months came on with Benzema jeered off making way. The Bernabeu roared the youngster on and urged him to come up with the fairytale finish but the night belonged to the goalkeepers. Neither deserved to lose.