Real Madrid might be heading for a European Super League at some point in the future but a 0-0 draw with Getafe on Sunday was a reminder of the charms of good old LaLiga.
An under-strength Madrid were given a rough ride by their near neighbours and lost ground to Atletico Madrid as a result, Diego Simeone's team seeing their lead at the top of the table grow from one point to three on Sunday.
After Atletico's 5-0 thumping of Eibar earlier in the day, the onus was on Zinedine Zidane's Madrid to follow up their Champions League success against Liverpool and last week's victory in El Clasico.
This was far from being classic Madrid, although they played their part in an entertaining tussle against relative minnows at Coliseum Alfonso Perez, the sort of match that would be missed if they were ever taken away by big-money deals.
Moments after Thibaut Courtois saved well from Mathias Olivera, Madrid had the ball in the net in the eighth minute when Mariano sprinted through and went wide of goalkeeper David Soria, sliding the ball into the net from a tight angle to the right of goal.
That was disallowed for offside after a VAR review, and Madrid were in trouble soon after when Mauro Arambarri had a clear sight of goal from 12 yards, only to rifle a foot wide of the left post.
The home side went even closer to a shock lead in the 23rd minute when Jaime Mata's flicked header from Nemanja Maksimovic's cross, drifted in from the left, rattled the right post.
David Timor made an outstanding clearance to deny Mariano in front of goal after Soria failed to gather a cross from Madrid left-back Marcelo. Vinicius Junior then drew an athletic but ultimately comfortable save from Soria with a header before half-time.
With Sergio Ramos absent through injury and Raphael Varane out after a COVID-19 positive test, it was a makeshift defence again for Madrid and they looked susceptible, Courtois having to make a fine save just before the hour mark to prevent Enes Unal finding the top left corner from 16 yards.
Madrid were sorely lacking sparkle and Angel Rodriguez nearly made a breakthrough for Getafe with 20 minutes remaining, clipping just wide of the left post. Courtois then saved expertly when a deflected shot from Maksimovic almost looped into the back of the net, the goalkeeper preventing a shock loss.
What does it mean?
After the high of beating Barcelona and the satisfaction at finishing off Liverpool with the goalless draw at Anfield, Madrid had little left for this rather more humble occasion. Against impressively willing opponents, who ran their hearts out for 90 minutes and played some mightily enterprising football, Madrid were arguably lucky to leave with a point. So Atletico again have momentum in this dramatic title race. It's going to be close, a classic LaLiga trophy battle awaits us.
Madrid come under crossfire
Getafe used the width of the pitch to dangerous effect, particularly in the first half, putting in 21 crosses or corners before the break. That is the way they typically set up to play and Madrid had to battle to keep up with the high-energy approach. Before this game, the most crosses and corners Madrid had faced in the opening 45 minutes of a LaLiga game in 2020-21 was the 16 they were hit with by Cadiz when losing 1-0 to the minnows in October. Carles Alena delivered a team-high eight crosses over the 90 minutes here, with three others playing four or more as Getafe chased in vain for a breakthrough.
Courtois saves the day
Madrid's Belgian goalkeeper was outstanding, making six saves across the 90 minutes. That is more saves than he has managed in any game when he has avoided conceding during his Real Madrid career. Considering Getafe have suffered more defeats (23) and conceded more goals (73) against Real Madrid than against any other team in LaLiga, it was surprising to see Los Blancos so often on the back foot.
Madrid are back in action on Wednesday when they travel south to take on Cadiz, looking to avenge that October defeat, while Getafe will face Copa del Rey winners Barcelona at Camp Nou on Thursday.