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Ronaldo rescues Real, while Barca bounce back

ESPN staff
March 2, 2014 « Soldado ends goal drought while Villa make their move | Chartbeat test »
Cristiano Ronaldo equalised © Getty Images
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Cristiano Ronaldo's strike eight minutes from time ensured Real Madrid claimed a 2-2 draw with Atletico at the Vicente Calderon to remain three points clear of their fierce city rivals at the top of La Liga.

Atletico looked on course for the derby bragging rights after first-half strikes from Koke and Gabi had put them ahead following Karim Benzema's early opener for Real.

But Ronaldo lashed home in the 82nd minute to the relief of boss Carlo Ancelotti and deny Atletico's hopes of completing a league double over their more celebrated rivals for the first time since 1951, having beaten them at the Bernabeu 1-0 earlier in the season.

Real came into this contest in high spirits after thumping Schalke 6-1 in the Champions league earlier this week and their momentum carried on into Sunday night, with Benzema scoring in the third minute.

The French striker beat the offside trap to poke home from close range at the back post after Angel Di Maria crossed from the right to give Real a dream start.

Atletico would have felt aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty soon after, though, after Sergio Ramos appeared to knock Diego Costa to the ground, but referee Carlos Delgado Ferreiro rather emphatically waved play on.

Raul Garcia sent his effort from distance well wide and Costa narrowly missed the target with his effort from just inside the area, while at the other end, Ronaldo's cheeky backheel was pawed away by Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The hosts hauled themselves level in the 28th minute when Koke picked up Arda Turan's ball on the right side of the penalty box before steadying himself and drilling across the helpless Diego Lopez.

Costa continued to cause problems for Real's defence, but it was Gabi who gave the hosts the lead with a magnificent strike from all of 30 yards that fizzed into the top corner, with Lopez perhaps a touch unsighted by all the bodies in front of him.

Diego Simeone's men continued to be the more threatening after the interval, knowing they could draw level with their opponents with victory and it was once again Costa driving forward before shooting wide from the edge of the area.

Real nearly equalised through Benzema, who steered a volley from close range just wide of the post, while Gareth Bale's header from Di Maria's free-kick was smartly saved by Courtois.

Costa should have doubled Atletico's lead but saw his effort from point-blank range somehow steered onto the bar by Lopez, who kept his side in the match with his brilliant reaction save.

Ronaldo wasted a decent opportunity to level matters after heading wide but he then atoned for his miss late on by driving low into the corner with his left foot from just inside the area.

Later on, Barcelona closed to within a point of Real after an emphatic, if not always totally convincing, 4-1 victory over Almeria at the Nou Camp.

After Real and Atletico's draw, Sunday's late contest afforded Barca the chance to get right back in the title mix after their costly defeat at Real Sociedad last weekend.

Alexis Sanchez set the hosts on their way in the 10th minute before a superb Lionel Messi free-kick made it 2-0 inside 25 minutes.

A moment's sloppiness in the Barca backline allowed Angel Trujillo to pull one back for Almeria and at 2-1 Barca endured more than one or two nervy moments as the visitors probed for a leveller.

It took until the 83rd minute for Barcelona to finally put the contest to bed, Carles Puyol following up with a smart finish after Messi's header had come back off the bar, while there was still time for Xavi to inflate the scoreline further with a sumptuous fourth.

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