La Liga roundup: Atletico Madrid falters again with derby draw

An Atletico victory would have taken Diego Simeone's side eight points clear of its city rival but Benzema's leveller means it leads third-placed Real by five points

Karim Benzema

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema scored the late equaliser against Atletico Madrid.   -  AP

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema struck an 88th-minute equaliser to snatch a 1-1 draw at La Liga leader Atletico Madrid on Sunday and keep his side in the title race.

Luis Suarez had put the host in charge in the 15th minute, producing an ice-cool finish to beat Thibaut Courtois after a lung-bursting run forward from his own half by midfielder Marcos Llorente.

The Uruguayan was denied a second goal later in the half by former Atletico keeper Courtois and early in the second period, while the Belgian also thwarted his compatriot Yannick Carrasco from point-blank range.

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Benzema, who returned after missing Real's last three matches through injury, was the champion's focal point in attack and spurned three chances to score before equalising late on, playing a one-two with Casemiro to tap into the net.

An Atletico victory would have taken Diego Simeone's side eight points clear of its city rival but Benzema's leveller means it leads third-placed Real by five points while Barcelona, in second, is three points behind.

Atletico can tighten its grip on top spot when it hosts Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday, however.

Captain Koke rued the late equaliser after his side had bossed the game.

"We were superior to them but they can score against you at any moment," he told reporters.

"We brought fresh players on and tried to add to our lead but we were up against a great rival who have a lot of power up front.


"We have never said the title race is over and we know it's going to go down to the wire but we have to now focus on Wednesday, when we have a chance to pick up more points and our rivals do not."

Atletico coach Diego Simeone welcomed back England defender Kieran Tripper after more than two months out suspended but benched 126-million-euro forward Joao Felix before introducing the Portuguese in the second half.

The visitor appealed loudly for a penalty shortly before halftime when Atletico defender Felipe appeared to handle the ball while Suarez and Real's Lucas Vazquez clashed when the two teams headed off for the halftime break after disagreeing over a tackle from Casemiro on Thomas Lemar.

Real was still missing key players such as captain Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard but crucially could count on the return of top scorer Benzema.

The Frenchman was thwarted from close range by Atletico keeper Jan Oblak and then saw a powerful free kick tipped away by the Slovenian, but finally got the better of him to complete a quick counter-attack.

"I think they were better in the first half and we were better in the second and this is a good point for us," said Benzema.

"The result means the title race is still on our minds."

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In the late match, eighth-place Athletic Bilbao beat 10th-place Granada 2-1 at home with the winning goal coming from Álex Berenguer one minute into second-half stoppage time.

Fifth-place Real Sociedad continued its pursuit of fourth-place Sevilla with a 1-0 home win over Levante with a goal by Mikel Merino in the 10th.

Earlier, Fran Beltrán scored a 76th-minute winner as Celta Vigo beat last-place Huesca 4-3 after twice squandering the lead. Celta moved to ninth place, while Huesca stayed four points from safety.

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