Rafa Benitez Real Madird
Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez reacts before their Spanish first division soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames stadium in Bilbao, northern Spain, September 23, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent West

REUTERS – Frustrated Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez felt they paid the price for not finishing off Atletico Madrid in the first half after Luciano Vietto hit a late equaliser in the 1-1 draw in La Liga on Sunday.

The visitors looked comfortable with a 1-0 lead at halftime through an early Karim Benzema header, but Atletico came back at them in the final stages and Vietto scored with seven minutes remaining.

“We dominated in the first half, we were in control of the game and we knew what we had to do,” Benitez told a news conference.

“In the second half they (Atletico) raised their rhythm and while we had eight breakaways we were not accurate in the last or penultimate pass.”

Real are joint second in the table with Celta Vigo and Barcelona on 15 points and a win would have seen them leapfrog Villarreal, who have a point more, into top spot.

“We have lost two points here. We went ahead and then we committed errors, with the penalty and then the goal,” said Benitez, even though Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann missed the spotkick.

“You have to give credit to Atletico as they pushed forward but still we were in control beforehand. I am happy with a lot of what we did in the first half.”

Benzema has made his best ever start to a season at Real with seven goals from eight games in all competitions but he was surprisingly taken off with 15 minutes to go.

“We were lacking a bit of freshness on the left wing,” said Benitez.

“It was a case of adjusting by using the pace of (Gareth) Bale and putting Cristiano Ronaldo as centre forward who is a threat. It was a way of creating better balance.”

(By Tim Hanlon, Editing by Mark Meadows)

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