Real Madrid somehow kept their title hopes alive with Gonzalo Higuain scoring a stoppage time winner as the 10-man hosts defeated derby rivals Getafe 3-2 on Tuesday in a see-saw thriller at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real rode their luck to move three points behind leaders Barcelona, who were due to play Sevilla yesterday, and if they do retain this title this match will undoubtedly be one of the turning points.
“We should have had a penalty, then they got a penalty, missed it and then I scored at the other end. It was an incredible game,” Higuain said.
“The euphoria is understandable and we have to enjoy it but then we have to put it into perspective and stay calm,” he said. “We are three points behind now and will have to see what Barca do against Sevilla.”
Substitute Juan Albin looked to have won the game for Getafe putting his side 2-1 up in the 83rd minute but Guti equalized with a brilliant free-kick three minutes later.
Pepe was then sent off for conceding a penalty but Francisco Casquero’s cheeky chipped spot-kick was saved by Iker Casillas and Higuain went down the other end to net a dramatic winner.
Pepe could be in hot water after kicking the grounded Casquero after pushing him to give away the penalty.
“I have to apologize to the fans and to Casquero,” Pepe said. “People who know me will tell you I am not like that. This is the first time something like this has happened to me and I am really sorry.”
Old boy Roberto Soldado, released by Real in the summer, put Getafe in front on 10 minutes to stun the home supporters but Higuain equalized seconds before the break after a dreadful defensive mistake.
A thrilling 15 minutes finale followed with two goals, a sending off and a penalty miss before Higuain became the hero.
Getafe, who had beaten Real 3-1 earlier in the season, were shell-shocked and lie four points above the relegation zone despite a brilliant display.
With midfielder Lassana Diarra suspended and Wesley Sneijder out for a month with a torn hamstring coach Juande Ramos was forced to start two out-of-favor players in Guti and Rafael van der Vaart.
Guti, 32, has been a regular in the Real side for over a decade but had a spat with Ramos earlier this season and has been on the substitutes bench ever since.
With Arjen Robben rested, compatriot van der Vaart, a fringe player under Ramos, had a rare chance to impress.
Soldado, 23, had a glorious chance to open the scoring in the third minute after Real failed to deal with a ball in from the left but the forward fired high over the crossbar from close to the penalty spot.
However, Soldado made amends in the 10th minute with Real leaving him unmarked in the area to head past Casillas.
Getafe were fired up and rather than sitting on the goal they took the game to the champions with Esteban Granero, another ex-Real youth product, shining in the Getafe midfield.
A defensive lapse let Real back into the game with Higuain pouncing on a mistake from Cata Diaz to equalize.
Robben replaced the ineffective van der Vaart in the second half and injected some much-needed urgency into the hosts.
Robben didn’t last long being subbed off 20 minutes later with an apparent muscular injury.
Albin thought he was the hero with an 83rd minute goal but Guti equalized and Higuain had the final say after Casquero missed a vital spot-kick.