MADRID • After Atletico Madrid thrashed Real Madrid 7-3 in pre-season, many critics were quick to round on Zinedine Zidane, wondering if his second spell at the La Liga giants would be a short-lived one.
But that was in July and fast forward seven months later, it is counterpart Diego Simeone who is feeling the heat instead.
Real made it 21 games unbeaten after edging out Atletico 1-0 at home on Saturday to consolidate their place at the top of the Spanish league.
Simeone's men were excellent in the first half, but they were yet again blunt in front of goal and then failed to respond when their opponents found a different gear.
Zidane's tactical switch after the break brought about the change in intensity. He ditched his 4-3-2-1 shape for 4-3-3, and hauled off Isco and Toni Kroos for Vinicius Jr and Lucas Vazquez.
It worked a treat as substitute Vinicius set up Karim Benzema to score 16 minutes after the interval.
Atletico, who were already deflated after Alvaro Morata had to come off with an injury five minutes into the second half, could not muster any sort of fightback, dropping to sixth in La Liga after their fifth game without a win.
While Simeone admitted that he was worried about their slump in form, Zidane was delighted after getting one over their cross-town rivals despite a poor first 45 minutes.
Real's French manager, whose side have now let in just 13 goals in 22 league games this term, said: "Everybody is very happy. We were looking for this.
"We had a difficult first half against an opponent who played a good game. We played better in the second half, with a different attitude and intensity.
"I don't like to make changes at the break but something had to be done.
"I could have changed two other players as I didn't like anything. But it's not the players, it was my fault. We had to change a bit and we did it. Everything was better in the second half."