After Sunday's Derbi Madrileño ended 2-2, players from Liga leaders Real Madrid CF and challengers Club Atlético de Madrid insisted every outcome was still possible in this season's intriguing title race.
FC Barcelona remain second in the standings after cutting Madrid's top-flight lead to one point with a 4-1 victory at home to UD Almería, yet it was yesterday's earlier kick-off at the Vicente Calderón which drew much of the weekend focus in Spain.
Seeking a first home win against Madrid in 15 outings, third-placed Atlético were stunned when Karim Benzema gave the visitors a third-minute lead. The hosts responded through Koke's equaliser in the 28th minute while Gabi's stunning strike from distance sent Diego Simeone's side into the break 2-1 ahead. Madrid rallied after the restart, though, and Cristiano Ronaldo's 12th goal in 11 appearances against the Rojiblancos – his seventh at the Calderón, equaling Emilio Butragueño's record – earned a point for Madrid late in the day.
"There are still 12 games to go [in the Liga] – that's a long way," Atlético coach Simeone said after a pulsating encounter. "To be within three points [of Madrid] at this stage is a really good thing for us. Today we have shown we are still alive [in the championship race]. The team put in a lot of hard work and I am really proud of the entire squad."
Atlético full-back Juanfran – making his 100th Liga appearance for Los Colchoneros – said his side had shown resolve following a 3-0 reverse at CA Osasuna a week earlier. "We took away those doubts that were circulating out there – that we were losing heart, that we weren't going to last the distance," he explained. "You saw today the heart this team have. Our coach and our fans are proud of us."
Praised for the tactical and personnel changes he made during an intense meeting, Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said he was "satisfied" to have earned a point that "keeps us at the top of the table". After what he described as a "hard game", the 54-year-old pointed out that Madrid were "now looking at seven matches at home and five away" in the title run in.
Despite his coach's words of optimism – and the fact that the leaders extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 28 games on Sunday – midfielder Xabi Alonso maintained: "There is a long way to go and you can't talk of who are favourites as anything can happen."
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.