Real Madrid emerged battered and bruised from an intense, compelling derby at the Vicente Calderón but they also remained as league leaders, after a hugely significant Cristiano Ronaldo goal. Things have changed in the city but Atlético have still not beaten Real at home this century. They should have done. A draw ended a run of eight consecutive Vicente Calderón derby defeats and keeps Diego Simeone's side in the title race but privately they will reflect on an opportunity lost.
"The result is what it is; we're still alive," Simeone said. "We are still alive. That will annoy some people, but we're still alive." Atlético led 2-1 but Real were never killed off, eventually recovered, and Ronaldo's goal changed the emotions entirely.
An Atlético victory would have left them level with Real but leading on head-to-head; the draw meant Real maintained a three-point lead over Atlético. "We're satisfied," Real's coach, Carlo Ancelotti, said.
Old ghosts seemed to reappear when Real led after three minutes, with Karim Benzema reaching Ángel di María's inswinging ball at the far post. Once, that might have sunk Atlético, but no more. They took the kick-off and bombed forward while all 10 of Real's outfield players celebrated in the corner. The "attack" was pulled back of course, but others would not be stopped.
Soon tackles were flying in and players were rolling about. At times, it was vicious; at others, they wanted to make it look vicious. Often it was sly. The noise was deafening and the confrontations constant. "Atlético wanted a violent game," Ancelotti said, but it was not one-sided. Asked about Ancelotti's remark, Simeone evaded the question.
Among the first down was Álvaro Arbeloa and, with him out of position, Atlético sprung forward. Diego Costa dashed into the area and Sergio Ramos brought him down but the referee, Carlos Delgado Ferreira, ignored the appeals. A crowd engulfed him and a card was shown to Arda Turan. The surprise was that many more cards did not follow throughout.
Thibault Courtois made a reflex save from Ronaldo's backheel but Atlético were rising to the task. Costa shot wide and then, in the 28th minute, Koke equalised. Arda left Fábio Coentrão on the floor before finding Koke with a clever pass. His shot was hit hard and low into the far corner.
Shortly before half-time, Diego López was out to block Costa's shot after a lovely turn, and in the final seconds, the ball fell to Gabi. Atlético's captain was a long, long way out but his shot flew into the net.
Courtois made a save and Ronaldo hit two free-kicks into the wall, appealing for a penalty after one of them for handball, but it was Atlético who looked more threatening still. As time wore on nerves grew, born of the realisation that the home side should have ended this. "We had chances to end it at 3-1 but I'm proud of the squad," Simeone said.
Costa dashed through but shot wide, then he went down as he turned inside Pepe. The penalty appeals were muted; soon they would be loud. Costa Arbeloa. The striker won the race, getting in front and heading into the area when Arbeloa brought him down. The referee blew for a foul – by Costa. Atlético's assistant manager Germán Burgos confronted the referee, needing five men to pull him away.
Raúl García swiped and missed close to the penalty spot and Costa's header was pushed away by López. Costa headed wide too. But now Atlético were tiring and Madrid, who had brought on Marcelo, Dani Carvajal and Isco, were pressuring consistently at last.
In the end, a defensive error from Mario brought the equaliser eight minutes from time. Carvajal pulled the ball back for Gareth Bale and his mis-control became an assist for Ronaldo who scored with an instant right-foot shot.