Former Los Blancos striker Álvaro Morata gave Atlético the lead early on before it was extended by Antoine Griezmann. When things looked most dire for the visitors, veteran midfielder Toni Kroos pulled one back for Madrid before the break, but Morata restored the two-goal cushion seconds after the second half kicked off.
There were to be no late heroics from Madrid’s new superstar Jude Bellingham this time, who experienced defeat for the first time since his move to the Spanish capital in the summer. The loss meant that Madrid’s 100% start to the La Liga season came crashing to an end, dropping points for this first time this campaign and falling off its perch at the top of the table.
Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti experimented with his team selection, fielding four central midfielders – including both Kroos and Luka Modrić and relegating the in-form Aurélien Tchouaméni to the bench – and playing Bellingham up front as a second striker alongside Rodrygo. His tactics backfired, however, and he was quick to hold himself accountable.
“I could have done better, maybe, that’s quite clear,” Ancelotti said after the match, according to Real Madrid. “When the team doesn’t do the right thing it’s my responsibility. But I’ve got broad shoulders, it’s not a problem.”
Los Colchoneros were quick out of the blocks and found the opener in the fourth minute of the game. Left wing-back Samuel Lino cut inside Federico Valverde and whipped in a swinging cross for Morata, who lost David Alaba with his run into the box and nodded the ball past Chelsea loanee Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The host found a lot of success in the wide areas, particularly from the weakened left flank – starting right-back Dani Carvajal is out with a muscle injury and was replaced by Lucas Vázquez – which they routinely exploited. Saúl Ñíguez clipped the ball in from that side of the pitch towards Antoine Griezmann in the 18th minute, with the Frenchman heading home to double Atlético’s advantage.
Madrid, with its midfield quartet, dominated possession while Atlético was content to make the most of its limited time on the ball, as teams have come to expect from Diego Simeone’s side.
Kroos fired Los Blancos back into the game in the 35th minute when his powerful effort from the edge of the penalty area whistled past Jan Oblak in goal.
Both goalkeepers were fairly busy in the opening half with some important stops, including Kepa getting down well to deny Ñíguez and Oblak saving another long-range attempt from Kroos.
The German midfielder’s goal breathed new life into Madrid and the team pressed for the equalizer before the break and it looked to have found one in the 44th minute when Bellingham played in a cross which was met by Alaba, with the Austrian’s effort rebounding off the post into the path of Eduardo Camavinga who tapped it home.
However, the referee and VAR adjudged that Madrid defender Antonio Rüdiger had interfered with play when he was offsides, so the goal was ruled out, much to the anger of the Merengues squad.
A further point of contention occurred just two minutes later when Bellingham played Rodrygo through on the left wing of Atlético’s half, when the Brazilian was cynically tackled by the last defender, José María Giménez, leading to Madrid protestations for a red card.
The referee ultimately rebuffed the calls and the teams entered the break with Atleti leading 2-1 and Madrid appearing frustrated at having missed an opportunity to level the match.
Half-time’s frustration quickly led way to second half blues as Atlético started the second 45 minutes even quicker than the first. Just 32 seconds in, Ñíguez dropped an inch-perfect cross on to Morata’s head and the Spanish national team captain did the rest, grabbing his brace and continuing his stellar goalscoring form as he beat Kepa to his left once again.
Another ball in from the left, another header and another goal – Madrid had been rocked by the Colchoneros’ aerial threat.
Morata’s second was enough to seal a memorable victory for Diego Simeone’s men, who secured only their second derby win in the league since the 2015/16 season.
Ancelotti further lamented his team’s defensive performance in his post-match interview.
“All I’ll say is that we didn’t defend well,” he said. “The team wasn’t compact, especially in the first half and Atlético capitalized on that. The three goals were carbon copies.
“The problem wasn’t in attack, but in defense.”
Madrid now sits third in La Liga, a point behind Girona and league leader Barcelona, while Atlético has moved up to fifth as a result of its efforts on Sunday.