The Liga title race will go to the final weekend after Atletico Madrid could only draw 1-1 with Malaga on Sunday evening.
The Rojiblancos knew they could win the title this afternoon if they beat the Costa del Sol outfit and Barcelona dropped points at Elche.
They would have to do so however, without talisman Diego Costa – who was deemed not fit enough by Diego Simeone to even make the squad. Instead, David Villa was partnered by Raul Garcia up top, with Toby Alderweireld coming in for the suspended Diego Godin at the back.
The atmosphere was electric at Vicente Calderon, so it was no surprise that the hosts made the brighter start, almost opening the scoring after only five minutes. A Koke corner found Tiago, but the Portuguese veteran couldn’t direct the ball on target from close range.
Bernd Schuster’s men weren’t pushovers though, and attempted to press the capital club back with some high intensity off the ball. On it however, they weren’t doing enough to scare the Rojiblancos’ backline, with birthday boy Thibaut Courtois enjoying a fairly easy first few minutes.
The home team continued to get forward, and they almost got the goal that would have calmed nerves after only 12 minutes. A lovely pass from Adra Turan found Villa, but the former Barca man could only strike against the bar from the edge of the area.
As usual, Simeone’s side were happy to sit back, soak up pressure, and try to hit their opponents on the break. But with half an hour gone, the Andalusians’ were coming into their own, and stifling Atleti’s rapid counter-attack.
The away side’s gameplan was clear, as they tried to disrupt the Colchoneros with niggling fouls and pieces of gamesmanship. And it worked, as the home team huffed and puffed in the middle of the park, looking, hoping for an opening to appear.
When it did come however, the finishing was not up to scratch. A cross from Juanfran on 42 minutes was hung high in the area, but Raul Garcia could only nod it wide of the right-hand post despite being unmarked.
After the break, the match continued with the same intensity and fight that had been prevalent in the first half. Elisue scraped his studs down Filipe Luis legs, whilst the referee came down on some Malaga time-wasters, still though the scoreline remained goalless.
It didn’t look like it would for long however, but Willy Caballero was doing his utmost to keep his powder dry. A long ball from Koke found Villa, but with his angle narrowing, the ex-Valencia striker could only shoot straight at the goalkeeper.
Atleti were pushing men forward hoping for that goal, but that left them vulnerable at the back as they almost found to their cost. A pass from Sergi Darder to Roque Santa Cruz saw the Paraguayan in, but out came Courtois, who spread himself wide and saved well.
They were the best defence in Spain, but it was an unbelievable mistake that was eventually their downfall on 64 minutes. A goal kick from Willy was mis-controlled by Alderweireld as Samuel Garcia strolled in. Courtois saw the danger and came rushing out, but the midfielder lifted it over him and headed into an empty net.
The home crowd were still behind their boys, and they almost seemed to suck the ball into the back of the net to keep the League within reach. A corner from Diego found Alderweireld inside the area, and the giant Belgian headed in to make up for his error 10 minutes earlier.
The noise was ramped up as we entered the home straight, and that volume went to 11 with just a few minutes remaining as the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Marcos Angeleri was given his marching orders for two yellow cards.
It wasn’t enough however, as the southern team held out for a point and took the title race all the way to the final game of the season.
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Malaga
Scorers: Alderweireld 74 (AM); Samuel 64 (M)
Red card: Angeleri 88 (M)
Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Juanfran, Alderweireld, Miranda, F. Luis; Tiago, Koke (Adrian 57), Gabi, Arda (Diego 70); Raúl García (Jose Sosa 63); Villa
Malaga: Willy; Antunes, Weligton, Angeleri, Eliseu; Camacho, Sergi Darder, Samuel, Amrabat (Pawlowski 90); Duda, Santa Cruz (Rescaldani 76)