Atletico coach, Diego Simeone, had warned fans in the pre-game press conference that "This will not be a pretty match. We are up against it and have few weapons at our disposal. We have to use them as best we can and work hard for the desired result."
Playing for only the second time this season without their talismanic Brazilian striker, Diego Costa, the Colchoneros had a bit of adjusting to get used to. But with Diego, Raul Garcia, and David Villa teaming up to take up the slack, the team seemed to be moving well in what was an even match until the 13th minute.
Arguably against the run of play, on a corner at the 13:26 minute mark, a Garcia header opened the score in favor of Madrid. The Atletico midfielder pushed his marker into the goal just ahead of doing the same with the ball and then ran quickly away to celebrate. "A small and subtle push," said the game announcer sarcastically after the replay showed the defender getting up inside the goal and yards away from where the contact took place. The Yellow Submarine team protests went unheeded and the goal was counted.
The first half ended with a 1-0 Atletico advantage and Simeone ready to make his second half defensive changes.
The second half saw Madrid's substitutions begin to take place at the 60th minute and continue until all three were used up. The first changes saw the expected defensive players coming in for Villa and Diego while the last was used to break up Villarreal's rhythm.
Simeone also changed his 4-4-2 for a 4-3-3 for a few moments when his subs came in but saw that the visitors could more easily attack the latter formation so he reverted to what had worked most of the game.
Diego Godin got away with a spin and tackle on Koke in the box with about 15 minutes left in the game disallowing what might have been the penalty that drew the game even.
Several strategic and rough fouls earned a number of yellow cards but insured the result Simeone had worked so hard for. At the end, Atletico took three earned points and Villarreal left the stadium knowing they had played their rivals even and simply did not get any officiating breaks to capitalize on.
Atletico will remain atop the La Liga table for another week with Barcelona and Real Madrid still to play today.