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Real Madrid's title hopes still alive after draw with Atletico

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-03-08 10:33
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Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates scoring their first goal as Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez reacts at Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain, March 7, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

MADRID - A late Karim Benzema goal gave Real Madrid a 1-1 draw away to neighbors Atletico Madrid on Sunday to keep their title hopes alive.

Benzema scored two minutes from time at the end of a game that Atletico had controlled for 75 minutes, before deciding to try to defend a 1-0 lead in the last 15 minutes.

The result keeps Real Madrid five points behind Atletico, who play their game in hand at home to Athletic Bilbao this coming week.

As expected, Karim Benzema was back after injury for Real Madrid, while there was also a swift return for Kieran Trippier at right-back for Atletico after 10 weeks out through suspension.

Atletico began by imposing their rhythm on the game, winning the ball and moving it quickly, and opened the scoring in the 14th minute after Marcos Llorente turned Nacho and ran 40 yards into space before a perfectly weighted pass allowed Luis Suarez to end a five-game goal drought with a perfect finish with the outside of his foot.

Benzema didn't get enough on a header at the other end, but Atletico were dictating the game with Suarez's cross just evading Yannick Carrasco, before Casemiro's long range effort was blocked by Jan Oblak.

Suarez had another effort blocked by Thibaut Courtois as Atletico launched another rapid break, before the half ended with controversy as Real Madrid had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Alejandro Hernandez. The ball brushed the defender's arm following a corner, but after looking at the TV images the referee decided against awarding a penalty.

The second half started with little change in intensity and Courtois again denied Carrasco before Llorente blasted the loose ball just over the bar.

Suarez saw another effort well saved, while Angel Correa failed to connect after good work from Trippier, as Atletico continued to create chances.

Real Madrid were creating very little in attack as Atletico closed down spaces time after time, but substitute Fede Valverde stung Oblak's hands from distance with 20 minutes left to play.

The Atletico keeper then produced a spectacular double save to twice deny Benzema after a counter-attack set up by Vinicius Jr after Correa had needlessly lost the ball. Oblak was at his best again a minute later to parry a Benzema free-kick at full stretch as Atletico began to sit deeper and deeper.

Diego Simeone's side paid for sitting too deep two minutes from the end when Benzema exchanged passes with Casemiro and sidefooted into an empty net. Not for the first time, Simeone paid the price for his defensive instincts. 

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