Madrid: French youngster Raphael Varane headed in a late goal as Real Madrid salvaged a 1-1 draw against bitter rivals Barcelona in their Spanish Cup semi-final first-leg clash. (Agencies)
Cesc Fabregas had given Barca the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu in a game his side looked to be running away with until the leveller.
Varane was Madrid's star all evening, clearing off the line in the first-half and making countless other defensive interventions in an entertaining encounter played yesterday.
With the second-leg almost a month away, Madrid, who trail Barca by 15 points in the league, will be relieved to avoid defeat and will now look to the Champions League last-16 first-leg against Manchester United in the same stadium in less than two weeks.
Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka highlighted Varane's performance.
"He had a great game, after saving us a few times he gets the equaliser and it will do him good, he is only 19 and this will be good for his progress with us," he said.
With Barca coach Tito Vilanova in New York receiving further cancer treatment, assistant Jordi Roura took the reins and thought his side could have won it.
"We had lots of chances to increase our lead but a draw is always a good result in Madrid, I said before it is probable the tie will be decided in Barcelona and I was right," he said.
Jose Mourinho earlier decided to partner Varane and Ricardo Carvalho in the centre of a depleted defence, with Sergio Ramos and Fabio Coentrao out through suspension and Pepe injured.
At right back Michael Essien was favoured over Marcelo, just back from injury, and Diego Lopez was called up for his debut in goal after he signed from Sevilla last Friday to replace the injured Iker Casillas.
Barca had far fewer problems and Jose Manuel Pinto in his customary position in goal for the Spanish Cup for Victor Valdes was their only change.
Madrid: French youngster Raphael Varane headed in a late goal as Real Madrid salvaged a 1-1 draw against bitter rivals Barcelona in their Spanish Cup semi-final first-leg clash.