Marcos Llorente headed home in the 93rd minute to snatch Atletico Madrid a 1-1 draw at La Liga leaders and bitter rivals Real Madrid on Sunday.
The Spain midfielder rescued a point to keep Atletico’s faint title hopes alive and stop Los Blancos opening up a wider lead on second-placed Girona.
Brahim Diaz, who replaced the hurt Vinicius Junior just before the game, opened the scoring for Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Llorente’s leveller means Madrid are two points clear of Girona, who drew against Real Sociedad on Saturday, and 10 points above Atletico in fourth.
Catalan minnows Girona visit Real Madrid next weekend in a title showdown made even juicier by Llorente’s vital contribution.
“The team has to be calm, we’re leaders with a two-point advantage,” said Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“We have another chance to make a statement win next Saturday.”
Llorente was happy to snatch his team a draw and above all, deny Madrid victory.
“We worked so hard during the whole game and at the end took this prize, a point, and stopped them from getting more, just one,” Llorente told Movistar.
“It doesn’t feel like a win, as we don’t get three points, but for how the game was, and the situation, we take a very valiant point from here.”
This was the third of three hotly-competed Madrid derby clashes in under a month.
Real Madrid won the first, beating Atletico on the way to winning the Spanish Super Cup, while Diego Simeone’s side ousted Los Blancos from the Copa del Rey a week later.
Atletico also beat Real in La Liga in September and are the only team to beat them this season in any competition, but could not complete their hat-trick.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti pulled Vinicius out of the starting line-up after he suffered neck discomfort before the game and deployed Diaz in his stead.
Real Madrid’s Uruguayan midfielder #15 Federico Valverde is challenged by Atletico Madrid’s Spanish defender #22 Mario Hermoso during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on February 4, 2024. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)
“After the warm-up (Vinicius) was not comfortable,” said Ancelotti.
“The two options were Brahim and Joselu, and Brahim let us keep the same defensive system.”
The coach also lined up with full-back Dani Carvajal in the centre of defence as Antonio Rudiger was not fit to start and both Eder Militao and David Alaba are injured.
Former Manchester City playmaker Diaz struck in the 20th minute after Atletico’s defence failed to clear.
‘I’m always ready’
Diaz has proven a reliable option for Ancelotti to turn to this season during Vinicius’ previous spells out injured and he notched his fourth goal of the league campaign.
“Vini had a little problem, they told me it was me starting and I’m always ready,” said Diaz.
Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin made a good save to deny Axel Witsel and Savic nodded narrowly over as Atletico hunted for the equaliser.
The Rojiblancos thought they had it early in the second half when Savic headed Antoine Griezmann’s corner home but the goal was disallowed for a controversial offside.
At the moment Savic headed the ball, Saul Niguez was offside in front of Lunin.
Madrid’s top goalscorer Jude Bellingham appealed for a penalty at the other end as he tangled with Savic but the referee waved his appeal away.
Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak made a solid stop from Rodrygo at the near post, with Ancelotti throwing out an arm in frustration.
Diaz nutmegged Mario Hermoso brilliantly and bent a shot wide of the far post moments before he was replaced by Joselu.
Madrid looked to have closed the game out but Atletico refused to give in and finally found the equaliser through Llorente.
It was the first time Carvajal and centre-back partner Nacho Fernandez had put a foot wrong, failing to react to Memphis Depay’s flick-on, and Llorente charged in to head past Lunin.
“(Atletico) are taller and they took advantage of that,” noted Ancelotti.
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