Cristiano Ronaldo's volley, goalkeeping heroics leave Madrid Derby level

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Cristiano Ronaldo scores the first goal of the Madrid Derby with a back-post volley. The game between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid ended 1-1. (Reuters)
Cristiano Ronaldo scores the first goal of the Madrid Derby with a back-post volley. The game between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid ended 1-1. (Reuters)

When the fourth official’s board went up in the 64th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday to reveal a red No. 7, it was a reminder. So was Cristiano Ronaldo’s understanding stroll across the pristine pitch. So was the resigned applause from 90,000-plus. They were all reminders that the final Madrid Derby of the 2017-18 campaign was relatively meaningless.

But the 90 minutes, with or without Ronaldo, offered another reminder. A reminder that Madrid Derbies always matter. And even when they matter less than usual, the talent on display disguises any insignificance.

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Ronaldo was the preeminent talent, and his 40th goal of the season, a subtly wonderful volley, broke the game open eight minutes after halftime.

But Antoine Griezmann, not far behind him, equalized to leave the second and final capital derby of the season deadlocked just like the first.

Keylor Navas and Jan Oblak were also responsible for the lack of separation. Navas denied Diego Costa and Saul with fine stops. Oblak kept the score at 1-1 with a flying save of Sergio Ramos’ free kick in the 90th minute. It brought Ronaldo out of his seat on the bench, but Oblak’s big left hand brought both of Ronaldo’s to his head.

Real was the better team, with 69 percent possession and 30 shots in all. Marcelo struck the post with a right-footed curler from 20 yards out. But only once could they find a route past Oblak.

Ronaldo’s 649th career goal will never be forgotten or equaled. His 650th, which gave Real a 1-0 lead Sunday, certainly wasn’t as awe-inspiring or spectacular. But it was similarly skillful:

Griezmann’s, however, cancelled it out. And it, too, featured some wonderful, though unspectacular, skill. Vitolo’s blind pull-back to Griezmann, and the Frenchman’s activity while Real defenders stood still, made Atletico’s answer a worthy equalizer.

The winner on the day, as was the case back in November, was Barcelona. Lionel Messi’s hat trick on Saturday stretched the gap at the top of La Liga to 12, and Sunday’s draw between the two Madrid sides kept it at 11. Atletico stayed four points ahead of Madrid in second.

Most important for the two sides involved Sunday are their respective continental competitions, which could see them advance to semifinals next week. Real Madrid holds a 3-0 first-leg lead over Juventus in the Champions League. Atletico has a 2-0 advantage heading into its Europa League quarterfinal second leg against Sporting CP.

But the European travels, and slightly weakened starting lineups, didn’t stop both from showing off their quality on Sunday. And only because the quality is so high on either side of Madrid did both league derbies this season end level.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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