Atletico snatch hard-fought point over crosstown rival Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. squandered a chance to overtake Villarreal at the top of La Liga after settling for a 1-1 draw at the Vincente Calderon on Sunday night.

JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images

BARCELONA, Spain —

Atletico Madrid substitute Luciano Vietto scored a late goal to snatch a 1-1 draw against crosstown rival Real Madrid on Sunday, denying Rafa Benitez’s side the chance to reclaim the Spanish league lead.

Karim Benzema gave Madrid a great start with his league-leading sixth goal to quiet the Vicente Calderon crowd just nine minutes into the match, and goalkeeper Keylor Navas protected that advantage by saving Antoine Griezmann’s penalty in the 22nd minute.

But as Madrid settled for defending instead of seeking a second goal to seal the win, Atletico pushed forward and Vietto poked in a cross from fellow substitute Jackson Martinez that the goalie couldn’t handle in the 83rd.

”We had the win in our hands,” Navas said. ”This isn’t the result we wanted, but it’s a point and we have to value it. We committed a mistake and in these games errors are paid for dearly.”

Still unbeaten, Madrid squandered the opportunity to overtake Villarreal at the top of the standings after the leader lost 1-0 at Levante earlier.

Madrid was left one point behind in second place, level on points with Celta Vigo in third and Barcelona in fourth after the defending champions’ 2-1 loss at Sevilla on Saturday.

LA LIGA RESULTS

Diego Simeone’s Atletico remained in fifth place, three points off Vilarreal’s pace.

”We snatched a point, and tried to get the win, but it wasn’t to be,” the 21-year-old Vietto said after his first goal for Atletico since transferring from Villareal following his breakout last season.

In a meeting of the best and worst sides in the league heading into the seventh round, Levante imposed its defense on Villarreal and limited the pacesetters to a single shot on goal.

Villarreal defender Bojan Jokic was sent off in the 36th with a second booking after a low, ankle-level tackle floored Ivan Lopez, who went down hard was carried off on a stretcher.

HEAR US OUT

Villarreal, however, was on course to salvage a point until striker Deyverson scored an acrobatic volley to drive home Nabil Ghilas’ cross with seven minutes left, pulling the team out of last place.

Elsewhere, striker Aritz Aduriz set up Athletic Bilbao’s second goal and added another to seal the Basque side’s 3-1 win at home over Valencia.

Bilbao’s second win of the campaign lifted it into 13th place, while Valencia fell to ninth place behind Real Betis after its 2-0 win at Rayo Vallecano thanks to Ruben Castro’s goal and assist.