Cristiano Ronaldo came up with a late leveller to earn Real Madrid a 2-2 draw at city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Goals from Koke and Gabi cancelled out an early strike from Karim Benzema and looked set to propel Atletico to the same points as Real at the top of the table. But Ronaldo popped up with a superb strike with eight minutes left on the clock to earn a point.
Atlético will have been disappointed not to have won all three points, but Madrid deserved something. Barcelona the biggest beneficiaries.— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) March 2, 2014
Real made a blistering start and were in front inside three minutes. Atletico were slow to close down a set piece from out wide, which allowed Angel di Maria time to whip in a cross to the back post, and Benzema was on hand to turn the ball home.
3’ Benzema opens the scoring just two minutes in! It’s his 15th goal of the season. Great start to the game. Hala Madrid! #AtletiRealMadrid— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) March 2, 2014
There was a moment of controversy on 11 minutes as Diego Costa tumbled in the box under challenge from Sergio Ramos. Atletico pleaded for a penalty, and there was contact, but the referee waved away the protests.
Atletico snapped into challenges, with Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Pepe feeling the effects, and the home side appeared to take heart from exerting a physical presence on the game.
Diego Costa had a sight of goal on 21 minutes but dragged his shot well wide, while at the other end Thibaut Courtois made two stunning saves to keep out Benzema and Ronaldo.
The value of Courtois’ saves were laid bare when Atletico drew level on 28 minutes. A mazy run from Arda Turan drew in Real defenders, which afforded space to Koke. A neat pass found Koke, and he slammed a low shot into the far corner.
The tension was always bubbling under, and on 40 minutes Pepe went down as if shot, and replays showed he had tried his best to get Diego Godin sent off.
On the stroke of half-time, a blistering long-range goal from Gabi lit up the Calderon.
There did not appear any obvious danger when he picked up possession, but he got the ball out of his feet and flashed a swerving drive beyond Diego Lopez.
Gabi's thunderbolt. Take a bow! https://t.co/1kb7nhmBvl— FutbolBible (@FutbolBible) March 2, 2014
Diego Costa had a fine chance to give Atletico a cushion when bursting away from Pepe, but for the second time in the match he snatched at his effort, and the chance went wide.
Moments later, Costa received another chance at a corner. He rose high and was unmarked, but he glanced his effort wide of target.
After a spell of Atletico pressure, Real found a foothold, and Benzema went very close with a crisp volley.
At the other end, Costa found his way into the referee’s notebook following a tangle with Alvaro Arbeloa, when it appeared Costa had been fouled.
Ronaldo was on the periphery for long spells but came close to an equaliser on 72 minutes when rising high and powering a header narrowly wide of target.
It served as a sighter for Ronaldo, and on 82 minutes he snatched a leveller. Gareth Bale poorly controlled a loose ball, but that worked to Real’s advantage, as Ronaldo was on hand to slam a low shot into the corner.
Cristiano Ronaldo now has 45 goals for club and country this season. Ibra has 44 and has a big game of his own today - PSG v Marseille.— Kay Murray (@KayLMurray) March 2, 2014
Atletico captain Gabi admitted the late goal they conceded was a real jolt. Speaking to Canal Plus (h/t Marca), Gabi said, "I'm not going to deny it. We did finish up with an unpleasant taste in our mouths. It was a very open game, but I am proud of Atletico de Madrid. The crowd went home happy enough."
Diego Costa: B-
The big powerhouse scores highly, as it was his bullying style of forward play that dragged Atletico back into the game by unsettling Sergio Ramos and Pepe. However, he would have scored higher had he not wasted a couple of good chances and also spent too much time on the ground trying to buy cheap free-kicks.
Cristiano Ronaldo: B-
It wasn’t one of Ronaldo’s better games, as he was afforded little time and space. But he showed his value with the leveller.
Gareth Bale: D
It was another day of frustration for Bale. He could not get any sort of foothold in the game, and Atletico made him look off the pace.
Diego Lopez: C-
There is debate every time Lopez plays with Spain No. 1 Iker Casillas on the bench. He had little chance with the first goal, but as good as the second was, he appeared slow to react and was beaten from all of 40 yards.
Real Madrid will return to the Santiago Bernabeu for their next outing with a home game against Levante. For Atletico, they will be on the road next weekend at Celta Vigo.
Both sides have Champions League duties to draw their attention, with Atletico holding a narrow lead over AC Milan, while Real are in total command of their tie with Schalke.