Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late equaliser as Real Madrid avoided a bruising derby defeat at Spanish title rivals Atletico Madrid with a 2-2 draw on Sunday.
Ronaldo pounced on a loose ball inside the area to net the 82nd-minute equaliser – his 23rd goal of the season for the league leaders.
Karim Benzema put Madrid ahead at the Vicente Calderon Stadium after three minutes but, instead of wilting, Atletico hit back with two goals to take the lead by halftime.
Koke smashed a low shot beyond Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez, who then watched Gabi Fernandez’s swerving effort from 30 metres fly past him just before the break.
Madrid stayed three points ahead of Atletico, but Barcelona were able to cut its deficit to Madrid to one point after a laboured 4-1 win against Almeria at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona led 2-0 by the 24th after Alexis Sanchez tapped a rebound into the empty goal before Lionel Messi curled an exquisite left-foot free kick around the defensive wall and into the top of the goal for his 15th league strike of the season.
A rout looked in the cards until Angel Trujillo got free to head home a corner in the 27th, and the relegation-threatened club made Barcelona work for the points.
“Atletico tried to make the game violent,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “We don’t play that way, however. But they tried right to the end.”
Despite being outplayed, Madrid’s attack finally connected when Gareth Bale failed to control a cross but the ball fell to Ronaldo to extend Madrid’s unbeaten run in all competitions to 28 games.
“Atletico played a bruising style right to the end, when we finally got a chance to play and create opportunities,” Ancelotti said.
Madrid are unbeaten at the Calderon for 15 games, dating to June 1999.
“The result is what it is,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “We had chances to win it. At least we showed we are still alive in the title race.”