Atletico Madrid’s performance against Real Madrid in last night’s Champions League semi-final was surprisingly uncharacteristic. Diego Simeone’s expertly-organised opportunists are arguably the kings of European double-leggers and Champions League away days, rarely conceding while taking their chances at the other end.
But Real Madrid’s expensively assembled attacking cast simply overpowered Atletico’s usually water-tight defence in a 3-0 romping, as their midfield and forward line struggled to make use of what little of the ball they received. That being said, it was still a valiant effort from Atletico’s defence as they fought off wave after wave of attack – and right-back Lucas Hernandez particularly stood out.
The 21-year-old was linked with Manchester United by Spanish publication Don Balon at the end of April but the speculation was put to rest just a day later as he signed a new contract at Vincente Calderon, keeping him on the books until 2022. Judging by his performance last night, the Red Devils will be gutted they’ve missed out.
Filling in at right-back for Juanfran, the young defender finished the match with the second-most tackles and clearances of any Atletico player, which not only limited Marcelo’s involvement but also forced Cristiano Ronaldo to take most of his efforts at goal from the other side of the pitch, moving over to the right channel for much of the second half.
Despite not being a forward-thinking player by any stretch of the imagination, the France U21 still produced one cross in a game that saw Atletico conjure up little going forward and completed all but 8% of his passes. He did commit four fouls, however, and was lucky not to get booked, which perhaps highlights Hernandez’s positional inexperience as a consequence of his age.
Nonetheless, it was a very impressive performance from a 21-year-old in a Champions League semi-final, even if he ended up on the losing side.