Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the 10th game in a row in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at home to Atletico Madrid but Antoine Griezmann struck back at the other end to keep his side four points ahead of their cross-city rivals in La Liga.
Yet the Madrid derby draw only pushes Barcelona closer to winning the league title as second-placed Atletico now trail Ernesto Valverde’s runaway leaders by 11 points, while Valencia climbed above Real into third after beating Espanyol 1-0.
Ronaldo followed his outrageous bicycle kick strike against Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday by breaking the deadlock in an entertaining contest in the 53rd minute.
He sent a cross from Gareth Bale crashing past Jan Oblak on the volley, hitting the target for the 20th time in 10 games.
Atletico quickly struck back with Griezmann tapping into an empty net in the 57th minute to complete an excellent team move which ensured that Diego Simeone’s side avoided defeat away to Real in the league for the fifth consecutive season.
Barcelona lead the standings on 79 points after beating Leganes 3-1 on Saturday. Atletico have 68 while Valencia have 65 and Real are fourth on 64 after 31 games.
The Catalans will lift a 25th Liga title if they win four of their seven remaining games.
“I can’t leave here feeling happy because we wanted to win,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone.
“They started better, we struggled to play together but in the second half we came forward more and created danger. We responded to their goal immediately and we could have won or lost the game. But I leave here feeling we’ve gained little.”
Real winger Marco Asensio and left back Marcelo both hit the crossbar in the first half while the home side had penalty appeals waved away either side of the interval and Oblak was forced to save goal-bound shots from Dani Carvajal and Ronaldo.
Real keeper Keylor Navas beat away a low strike from Diego Costa in the first half and then kept out a powerful effort from Koke in the second while Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez struck one just wide as the visitors grew in confidence.
OBLAK THWARTS REAL Madrid captain Sergio Ramos almost grabbed an injury-time winner from a free kick but Slovenian goalkeeper Oblak again came to Atletico’s rescue by tipping the curling shot over the bar.
“I’m very happy with how we played but we obviously deserved more. It’s a shame we didn’t win because we had a lot of chances but we also could have lost the game,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane told reporters.
“We had a lot of chances, we did everything to win the game but our objective stays the same, to reduce the points gap and get into second place.”
Spain forward Rodrigo headed home from close range against Espanyol to ensure Valencia need only two more wins to seal their return to the Champions League next season.
Also on Sunday, Levante took a giant step towards sealing their La Liga survival by winning 2-1 in a relegation battle at home to fellow strugglers Las Palmas with a superb injury time goal by Jose Campana.
Spanish midfielder Campana’s strike sparked jubilant scenes at the packed Ciutat de Valencia stadium after Las Palmas captain David Garcia had cancelled out Coke’s opening goal.
The win lifted Levante, who had Coke sent off late in the game, eight points clear of the relegation zone and 18th placed Deportivo La Coruna with seven games remaining.
Elsewhere, Real Sociedad thrashed Girona 5-0 at home to climb from 16th in the standings to 12th.