Zinedine Zidane denied Cristiano Ronaldo had suffered an injury despite being substituted relatively early in the Madrid Derby.
Ronaldo continued a phenomenal 2018 when he volleyed Madrid into a deserved 53rd-minute lead at Santiago Bernabeu – his 40th goal in all competitions this season.
Atletico Madrid had rarely threatened up to that point but responded with gusto as Antoine Griezmann scored for the third consecutive season in this fixture and Keylor Navas saved impressively from Koke.
Zidane then raised eyebrows by making an apparently pre-planned substitution, as Karim Benzema came on for Ronaldo.
Although captain Sergio Ramos twice went close in stoppage time, Madrid were unable to force a winner and remain third – four points behind their neighbours in La Liga.
“It was just to rest,” Zidane said, explaining Ronaldo’s withdrawal ahead of next week’s Champions League quarter-final meeting with Juventus.
“We have many games, that’s it. Sometimes he needs to rest.
“Cristiano is Cristiano, he has been this player all his life, scoring 50 goals a season.
“True, nobody else does that. But others can score, have done recently, and we must think about the positives.”