MADRID (Reuters) - Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Real Madrid public some welcome cheer by leading the champions to victory over city rivals Atletico in the derby on Saturday after Jose Mourinho’s publicity stunt failed to unite the Bernabeu.
The Portugal forward scored a superb freekick to open the scoring, laid on a second for Mesut Ozil, hit the woodwork twice and brought the smiles back to the faces of Real fans as they ran out 2-0 victors over city rivals Atletico.
“Life in Madrid remains unchanged,” a headline in daily El Mundo said on Sunday, as Atletico made it 22 La Liga matches without a win over their neighbours.
After sectors of the crowd had whistled when others sang his name during a King’s Cup match on Tuesday, Mourinho had challenged disgruntled Madrid supporters to vent their frustrations against him personally before the game.
Last weekend’s 1-0 league defeat at Real Betis, their third in 14 matches this season, had left them 11 points adrift of unbeaten leaders Barcelona.
As promised, the former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss walked onto the edge of the pitch 40 minutes before kick-off, surrounded by dozens of cameramen, but there were less then 5,000 fans braving the freezing temperatures to see him then.
A few whistles interspersed the applause of those present, as he stood for a few minutes, but it did little to heal any divisions of opinion over his stewardship of the club.
“Mourinho never hides, he always shows his face for the team,” assistant coach Aitor Karanka said at the post-match news conference, which Mourinho did not attend.
“The coach can do what he likes. The whole of Real Madrid is with him,” club director Emilio Butragueno told Spanish television afterwards.
“SHOW SOME GUTS”
Barcelona’s 5-1 hammering of Athletic Bilbao earlier on Saturday set a new La Liga record of 40 points from the opening 14 games of the campaign with 13 wins and a draw.
Real stayed 11 points back in third, but closed the gap on second-placed Atletico to five points.
It was a bitter disappointment for Atletico and their fans who had held high hopes of recording their first derby win since 1999.
Coach Diego Simeone, who helped Atletico win their last league title as a player back in 1996, had sprung his own publicity stunt earlier on Saturday.
An open-door training session at their Calderon stadium had been attended by over 20,000 singing and chanting fans, but if it had been designed to motivate the players, it did not work.
After Ronaldo’s fizzing freekick in the 16th minute Simeone’s side barely threatened.
Their in-form striker Radamel Falcao was starved of the ball while home fans mocked the visitors by chanting “show some guts”, the same song Atletico fans had sung to the players in the morning.
“The team did well until the goal,” Simeone told a news conference. “I wouldn’t say it was a psychological problem it was just we couldn’t make any headway in attack.”
Asked about their potential to fight Barca and Real for the top spots in the table, Atletico midfielder Gabi told reporters: “We are fighting to get into the Champions league. This is our main objective.” (Reporting by Mark Elkington, editing by Patrick Johnston)