Real Madrid’s young striker Alvaro Rodriguez salvaged a late 1-1 draw for the champions in a tense derby clash against 10-man Atletico Madrid on Saturday in La Liga.
New Valencia coach Ruben Baraja earned his first win with an impressive 1-0 triumph against Real Sociedad at Mestalla, to help the team move provisionally one point clear of the drop zone.
Real Madrid’s draw reduces league leaders Barcelona’s advantage on Los Blancos to seven points, but gives the Catalans the chance to expand the gap to 10 on Sunday when they travel to Almeria.
Jose Gimenez had headed Atletico in front in the second half shortly after team-mate Angel Correa had been sent off for elbowing Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger.
However 18-year-old Rodriguez headed Madrid level on only his second league appearance for the club.
The striker made a strong impact in a cameo against Osasuna last weekend, setting up a goal, and made an even more important contribution against Atletico.
Despite his impact, Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti admitted his team’s hopes of defending the title are fading, albeit not extinguished.
“It’s not a goodbye to La Liga - it’s even more complicated, but we will fight to the end and see what happens,” Ancelotti told reporters.
The Italian coach praised Rodriguez for making a difference coming off the bench.
“Alvaro has shown all his qualities, he’s not played much, it’s a special night for him and for us to think that he can be useful at this stage of the season,” added Ancelotti.
“For next season, Alvaro will be in the first team squad. He has qualities that few have for his age.
“He’s tall, good on the ball, great in the air, and the idea is to have him with us in the first team squad next season.”
Atletico were hunting for a league win at Real for the first time since 2016.
Rojiblancos defender Reinildo Mandava was forced off injured midway through a drab first half, hurting his knee in a tussle with Fede Valverde.
Atletico were reduced to 10 men after an hour when Correa lashed out and hit Rudiger in the chest, with the German defender flinging himself to the floor.
“The contact was not so violent to immediately be a red card,” Simeone told reporters.
“There are many people who have paid for tickets and want to see the players.
“In football there is contact, that’s how it is.”
Despite the red card, Atletico quickly took the lead.
Gimenez, who had replaced the injured Reinildo, met Antoine Griezmann’s inviting free-kick with a towering header after 78 minutes to break the deadlock.
However substitute Rodriguez intervened with five minutes left on the clock, leaping brilliantly to nod Luka Modric’s corner in off the post.
Madrid could not find a winner and the result leaves the door open for Barcelona to take another step towards the title on Sunday.
“We went behind and then saving a point is better than nothing, but it’s not enough,” said Courtois.
At Mestalla, Valencia put in a hard-working performance to defeat third place Real Sociedad, now just a point ahead of Atletico.
Igor Zubeldia’s own goal split the teams, the defender turning into his own net as he tried to cut out a Samuel Lino cross five minutes before the break.
Valencia were awarded a penalty early in the second half when Hugo Duro went down but it was cancelled after VAR intervention showed no foul was committed.
Real Sociedad piled on the pressure but Valencia came closest to scoring when Lino hit the woodwork.
Baraja’s side scrapped their way to the full-time whistle and only a sixth win from 23 league games.
It was Valencia’s first victory in nine league games, with their bad form seeing coach Gennaro Gattuso sacked at the end of January.
Voro took over for the sixth time in Peter Lim’s reign as owner but was replaced by former Valencia great Baraja, who secured a win in his second game in charge, after a defeat by Getafe last weekend.
Cadiz earned a 1-0 win over sixth-place Rayo Vallecano to climb into mid-table, while Martin Braithwaite netted twice for Espanyol to beat Real Mallorca 2-1.