Atletico Madrid’s 14-year wait for a win over their neighbors continued as Real Madrid came from behind to win 2-1 at the Vicente Calderon.
Radamel Falcao had got Atletico off to a flying start with a simple header from Diego Godin’s cross just three minutes in, but Real were level nine minutes later when Juanfran turned Angel di Maria’s free-kick into his own goal and Di Maria struck the winner himself with a fine low drive from Karim Benzema’s pass just after the hour mark.
Di Maria quickly turned his attentions to tomorrow’s UEFA Champions League semi-final, second leg against Borussia Dortmund as Real look to overturn a 4-1 deficit from the first leg in Germany last week.
“Winning today gives us extra motivation for Tuesday, which we hope will have the best possible outcome,” he told Gol TV. “We haven’t given up on the league yet and we are doing things well. [Coach Jose] Mourinho put out the team he thought would be best and we gave everything.”
With the Dortmund game in mind, Mourinho made eight changes to the side that started in Dortmund, with Cristiano Ronaldo not even included in the squad due to a thigh injury.
Real’s win reduces Barcelona’s lead at the top of the table to 11 points after the Catalans could only manage a 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao.
Barca trailed at halftime after Markel Susaeta bundled home Aritz Aduriz’s cross, but the introduction of Lionel Messi as a second-half substitute brought the visitors to life as he scored a wonderful individual goal and then set up Alexis Sanchez to make it 2-1.
Tito Vilanova’s men were denied a minute from time, though, when Ander Herrera pounced on Adriano’s sloppy clearance to fire past Victor Valdes and give Athletic a share of the spoils.
Meanwhile, Real Zaragoza moved off the bottom of the table with their first win this year as Ruben Rochina’s goal three minutes from time gave them a 3-2 win over RCD Mallorca.
The Islanders had gone in front early on through Tomer Hemed, but goals from Paco Montanes and Helder Postiga put Zaragoza in front, before Javier Arizmendi looked to have snatched a point for Mallorca eight minutes from time.
However, Rochina’s late intervention moved Manolo Jimenez’s men up to 18th, with Mallorca dropping to the foot of the table.
Also on Saturday, RC Celta de Vigo moved out of the bottom three as Augusto Fernandez’s header gave them a 1-0 win at Levante UD.