Alvaro Morata had to leave Chelsea — he really had no choice after his form and confidence seemingly dissipated after a slew of shocking missed opportunities. So he returned to Madrid, where he started his professional career back nearly 10 years ago. Except, he joined Atletico, not Real.
Morata was given his second start with Atletico Madrid on Saturday, facing his former club — and former Blues teammate Thibaut Courtois, a former Atletico keeper who was greeted by Atleti fans who threw stuffed rats at him during warmups.
— MARCA (@marca) February 9, 2019
Morata nearly had a massive impact on the match. But once again, the key with Morata is the word nearly.
With Atleti trailing in the second half, Morata and the entire Wanda Metropolitano thought the equalizer had been scored with the most audacious of chips. Instead, the VAR disallowed the goal, and Real Madrid added a third goal to win 3-1 on a VAR-filled Saturday.
The Madrid Derby, featuring the second- and third-placed teams in LaLiga, had a cracking first half. Casemiro put Los Blancos into the lead in the 16th minute with an acrobatic scissor kick.
Antoine Griezmann equalized for Atletico nine minutes later, catching the Real defense napping on a quick counter.
But Real went into the halftime break up 2-1 thanks to Sergio Ramos, who converted a penalty drawn by Vinicius on the edge of the box. Ramos has 11 goals this season, fewer only than Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.
Atleti fans (and Barça fans) will argue Vinicius was outside the box when he was fouled, but it was probably the correct call as a foul that moves into the box can be awarded with a PK.
Now back to Morata.
The Spaniard had his share of shocking misses, deplorable touches and baffling decisions while at Chelsea before he was shipped back to Spain in the January transfer window. But in the 54th minute, he showed the incredible skill that explains how he’s played for Real Madrid, Juventus and Chelsea.
Played in behind the Real defense with a long ball from defense, Morata expertly controlled the ball with one touch, took a look at the on-rushing Courtois, then with his second touch deftly chipped the ball about 30 feet in the air and down into the bottom of the net for a truly world-class goal.
Really, for all the crap he got at Chelsea, it doesn’t get any better than this in your second match with a new club.
Except for the VAR.
Officials checked the replay and ruled Morata was marginally offside and disallowed the goal. It was close and in my opinion too close to overturn, but my opinion doesn't mean shit to the VAR.
The poor guy can’t catch a break.
Later in the match, Morata was tripped in the box by Casemiro, but it came as his arm hit the ball and the officials opted to call hand ball instead of penalty.
The missed opportunities proved costly as Gareth Bale (a second-half sub) put the game away with a clinical finish from a tight angle in the 74th minute.
If Bale’s goal, his 100th in all competitions for Real, didn’t put the game away, a second yellow card for Atleti’s Thomas in the 80th minute certainly did.
The 3-1 win moved Real one point ahead of Atletico, now seven points back of Barcelona, which plays Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.