Champions League: Bale pardoned for miss as Atletico stifle Real big guns

Frank Dalleres
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Wales star Gareth Bale had Real Madrid’s best chance but was denied by Jan Oblak

REAL Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti last night refused to blame Wales star Gareth Bale for a costly early miss after being held to a frustrating draw in their Champions League quarter-final derby.

Bale had the best chance of a niggly first-leg encounter in the opening minutes but the former Tottenham winger was denied when clean through by Atletico Madrid’s outstanding goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

“I think it was a good save because their goalkeeper in the first half was really important,” said Ancelotti. “Gareth played a good game. All the team I am really satisfied [with], because we worked hard. The first half was better quality; the second was difficult.”

The draw extended Atletico’s unbeaten sequence against their more prestigious neighbours to seven games, all of which have come since Real beat them in last year’s European final.

Ancelotti aimed to end that run by bombarding Atletico with attacking talent, fielding Bale alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, with James Rodriguez, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos providing the ammunition.

Oblak kept dominant Real at bay, also saving Bale’s swerving 25-yard shot and James’s close-range effort, but Atletico grew into the contest and Mario Mandzukic almost snatched a home win when his shot was blocked by former Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa. The second leg takes place a week today.