Cristiano Ronaldo salvages point for Real Madrid, Barcelona beat Almeria

Written by AFP | Madrid | Updated: Mar 3 2014, 20:06pm hrs
Cristiano Ronaldo equalised eight minutes from time as Real Madrid remained top of La Liga thanks to a pulsating 2-2 draw against Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon.

Real remain three points clear of Atletico but Barcelona moved to within a point of the leaders as they beat Almeria 4-1 yesterday.

Karim Benzema had fired Real into a third minute lead when he converted Angel di Maria's cross.

However, despite being denied what appeared a penalty when Sergio Ramos seemed to trip Diego Costa, Atletico were in front by half-time thanks to fine strikes by Koke and Gabi.

Another turned down penalty appeal saw Atletico assistant boss Mono Burgos sent to the stands as he tried to confront the referee midway through the second-half.

And Atletico were left to feel hard done by when Ronaldo spun on the edge of the box to drill home a late equaliser.

"I think we can leave here reinforced, we have drawn a game in which we were losing," said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.

"The reaction of the players was good, in general we can be satisfied because Atletico Madrid are a very good team, especially at home.

"We are still three points ahead of them and we are leaders."

Atletico captain Gabi was understandably left enraged as his side missed out on a possible return to the top of the table.

"I leave with a bad taste in my mouth," he told Spanish TV channel Canal Plus.

Home fans angry

"It was a very open game with chances for both teams but I am proud of Atletico Madrid.

"We wanted to offer this intensity and desire to the fans and I think that is what we did."

Ancelotti's men came into the game full of confidence after thrashing Schalke 6-1 on their return to Champions League action in midweek and took just three minutes to open the scoring.

A short corner from the right was worked back to Di Maria and his in-swinging cross was slotted home at the back post by Benzema.

The home fans and players were left incensed seven minutes later when Costa seemed to be tripped inside the area by Ramos, but referee Carlos Delgado Ferreiro waved away claims for a penalty.

The hosts bossed the latter part of the opening period and were level on 27 minutes when fine work from Turan teed up Koke inside the area to smash a low right-footed drive into the far corner.

Atletico went in front in spectacular fashion in first-half stoppage time when Gabi collected a short free-kick and fired high into Diego Lopez's top right-hand corner from 35 yards.

More controversy was to come as Costa appeared to be bundled over inside the area, this time by Alvaro Arbeloa, but rather than pointing to the spot Ferreiro booked Costa for diving.

Just eight minutes to make breakthrough

And that decision was to prove vital as Ronaldo fired home a loose ball from the edge of the area eight minutes from time to give Real a share of the spoils.

At the Camp Nou, Barcelona maintained the pressure on both Madrid sides as they made amends for their 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad last weekend.

It took the hosts just eight minutes to make the breakthrough when Alexis Sanchez tapped home after Esteban failed to hold Cesc Fabregas's shot.

Lionel Messi made it 2-0 with a fantastic free-kick from 25 yards to register his eighth goal in his last six games.

However, Almeria were handed a lifeline three minutes later as Angel Trujillo took advantage of some awful marking from the Barca defence to head home Corona's corner.

The visitors could even have been level after the break when Aleix Vidal fired straight at Victor Valdes when well-placed inside the area.

Barca did finally put the game to bed when Carles Puyol bundled home after Messi's looping header came back off the bar before Xavi curled home the fourth two minutes from time.

"The goal they scored put a little doubt in our minds and we were more worried making sure we defended well and kept the ball," midfielder Cesc Fabregas told Barca TV.

"We had control of the game and once the third goal arrived and we could relax.

"I still think we have to improve, but it is all in our hands. We have 19 games left to make this is a great season."