Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak made a strong of first half saves, while the home side’s battling centre-forward Mario Mandzukic was the protagonist after the break, but neither team was able to take an advantage to next Wednesday’s second leg across the city at Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti was quickly looking to the next leg, “We must think about repeating the first 45 minutes for the whole game. We did not score, but will have chance to score at home.”
Real director and club legend Emilio Butragueno said: “We were far superior. Oblak was magnficient.”
Real began at a very high tempo - and should really have been ahead on just three minutes, when Atletico centre-back Diego Godin’s slip left Gareth Bale clear on goal. But home goalkeeper Jan
Oblak saved well - setting a pattern for the remainder of the first half.
With Madrid defender Sergio Ramos providing aggression and intensity missing when his side were beaten 4-0 here on their last visit, the visitors were bossing the proceedings and Atletico were pushed further and further back.
This allowed Slovenian international Oblak, who only recently won a place in Atletico’s XI, to shine with a number of superb stops.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s weak 25 yard free kick was gathered easily, while Bale’s clumping effort from a similar distance required a smarter stop.
The best save yet came when Colombian star James Rodriguez dinked a shot through a crowded penalty area, and the 22 year old keeper was again alert to save.
Atletico, unbeaten in six ‘derbi’ meetings this season since losing last season’s ‘derbi’ Champions League final to their neighbours in such heartbreaking fashion, looked uncharacteristically unsure, with players mishitting simple passes and misreading each other’s runs throughout the opening stages.
Usually key players like captain Gabi and midfielder Koke looked out of sorts. Coach Diego Simeone was off the bench to ask for more noise as the concerned Calderon crowd grew quiet.
Even Atletico’s usually clockwork set-pieces were not working out. Koke messed up one routine, leading directly to centre-back Raphael Varane racing 60 yards down the wing to set up a chance on the break for James. But Oblak again came to his side’s rescue and the teams went into half-time all square.
Simeone’s side came out more energised after the break, and Arda Turan sent a free header wide from eight yards.
Ramos looked more pressurised now - and was lucky to escape punishment for an apparent elbow that left Mario Mandzukic with a bloody nose. The Croat kept angrily complaining to the referee, and ended up with a yellow card from Serbian referee Milorad Mazic.
The injustice was even greater when replays showed Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal aiming a sly punch at Mandzukic’s stomach away from the officials’ gaze.
Madrid were also frustrated as Ronaldo hared away on the break, but was pulled back by the officials for handball.
The disappointing Karim Benzema had a chance to shoot, but the French international stepped aside for the also below-par Ronaldo and the chance was blown.
As the minutes ticked away, both coaches made cautious substitutions, with neither wanting to risk a slip which might put them behind in the tie ahead of next week’s return game. Ramos was finally booked to loud cheers from the home fans.
Atletico had a chance from a set-piece, when Arda Turan’s dribble caused havok in the Madrid back-line, but Godin hooked over the bar from the resulting long-throw.
However, the introduction of Fernando Torres as a late substitute injected new life into the game as he had appeals for an 87th-minute penalty waved away and then saw Mandzukic blast a last-minute drive into Alvaro Arbeloa’s midriff.
Ronaldo scuffed an injury-time shot straight at Oblak at the other end, but there was to be no late drama as the game ended in stalemate.
Tired defending at both ends late on saw Madrid left-back Marcelo and Atletico midfielder Mario Suarez pick up bookings which will see both players miss next week’s second leg.
The tie looks evenly balanced ahead of that game – when a place in the last four of Europe’s top competition will be decided at the Bernabeu.
Oblak 9; Juanfran 6, Miranda 6, Godín 5, Siqueira 6; Gabi 5, Mario Suárez 6; Arda 8, Koke 6; Griezmann 7, Mandzukic 7. Subs: Raul Garcia 6, Torres 6
Casillas 6; Carvajal 7, Varane 8, Ramos 7, Marcelo 6; Kroos 6, Modric 7, James 6; Bale 5, Benzema 5, Ronaldo 6. Subs: Isco 6, Arbeloa 6