Real Madrid completed an impressive week by beating La Liga table-toppers Atletico Madrid to back up the victories over Borussia Monchengladbach and Sevilla.
Defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk on December 1 left Zinedine Zidane fighting for his job after a poor run of form, but the last three games have seen the Spanish champions complete a stunning turnaround, easing the pressure on the Frenchman.
Dani Carvajal returned to the Real Madrid starting lineup, but Zidane kept Lucas Vazquez in his team, with the 29-year-old deployed on the right wing having filled in at right back over the last few weeks.
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Casemiro gave the defending champions the lead after 15 minutes, heading home a corner kick delivery from Toni Kroos after losing his man inside the six-yard box, marking the first time Atleti have trailed in a league game this season.
Diego Simeone made three changes for the start of the season half, but Real Madrid doubled their advantage when Carvajal’s powerful strike bounced into the net off the back of the luckless Jan Oblak.
Atletico Madrid’s first league defeat of the season saw Real Madrid close the gap on their city rivals to just three points, although Simeone’s side still hold a game in-hand at the top of La Liga.
TALKING POINT - Diego Simeone got his team selection badly wrong
It didn’t take long for it to become apparent Simeone had misjudged this derby encounter with his team selection. The deployment of Joao Felix and Luis Suarez as a front two left Atleti overwhelmed in the centre of the pitch. Even when Simeone made changes, he withdrew Felix just as the Portuguese youngster was starting to find some traction. Luis Suarez, meanwhile, was anonymous. Simeone has raised Atletico Madrid as title contenders this season, but this wasn’t the Argentine’s finest night.
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MAN OF THE MATCH - Casemiro (Real Madrid)
The primary difference between the two Madrid rivals was in the centre of the pitch where Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric controlled the match for the hosts. Casemiro was the most impressive of the trio, with the Brazilian opening the scoring for Real Madrid and generally setting the tone for what was an impressive performance. Casemiro frequently turns up when it matters most and that’s certainly what he did here.
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Real Madrid - Courtois 7, Carvajal 8, Varane 5, Ramos 6, Mendy 6, Kroos 8, Casemiro 9, Modric 8, Vazquez 7, Benzema 7, Vinicius 6. Subs - Rodrygo 6, Asensio 5.
Atletico Madrid - Oblak 8, Trippier 4, Savic 5, Felipe 5, Hermoso 6, Llorente 6, Herrera 4, Koke 5, Carrasco 4, Suarez 4, Felix 5. Subs - Lemar 7, Correa 6, Saul 5, Lodi 7, Kondogbia 4.
12’ Off the post! So close to a stunning opener from Benzema! He unleashed the strike from the edge of the box, but Oblak got a fingertip to it to guide the ball on to the woodwork! Wow! What a goal that would have been!
15’ GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Atletico Madrid: The hosts have the lead in the derby and that goal had been coming! Casemiro gets his head on the end of a corner kick into the penalty area from Kroos and powers his effort down and into the back of the net past Oblak. Real Madrid have the lead!
56’ Off the base of the post! Atletico Madrid's best chance of the match by some distance! Llorente played a wonderful cross into the Real Madrid box, but Lemar could only strike the woodwork at the back post!
63’ GOAL! Real Madrid 2-0 Atletico Madrid: Real Madrid have doubled their advantage and it's Carvajal who has found the back of the net! Although that might actually go down as an Oblak own goal as the strike came off the post and then bounced into the net off the back of the goalkeeper!
Dani Carvajal scored just his fifth goal in 191 league appearances for Real Madrid.
Atletico Madrid failed to register a single shot in the first half of a league match for only the second time in the last five seasons.