Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone hailed star forward Antoine Griezmann after his equaliser earned a 1-1 draw in Sunday’s derbi at Real Madrid.
An entertaining game saw Cristiano Ronaldo volley Real ahead early in the second half, only for Griezmann to level four minutes later.
France international Griezmann, 27, has now scored on each of his last three league visits to the Bernabeu and has 18 goals in his last 20 games in all competitions.
“He is a great player, he is very strong in these moments mentally,” Simeone told his postmatch news conference.
“He did not start the season well — he knows that. It is not easy to reinvent yourself on the run as he has done.
“The presence of [Diego] Costa has helped to free him to get involved in the play. He keeps improving, we need him and we are coming to the most important part of the year, when all the effort done in the first months pays off or not.”
Despite Real having more possession and shots, Simeone said he was slightly disappointed because he felt his team had made enough opportunities to take all three points.
“I am not leaving happy as we wanted to win,” he said. “In the first half they were better, but we then started to link up better in midfield and attack.
“When they scored, we responded immediately and we saw a game we could win with Koke and [Angel] Correa, and could have lost without [goalkeeper Jan] Oblak. But I am leaving with a sensation of bringing little away, really.”
Leaders Barcelona are now 11 points clear of Atleti with seven games remaining, but Simeone said: “I always want to finish first — if not first, then second, if not second, third.
“There are seven games left, football can change quickly, lots of points still to play for.”
Atletico are unbeaten in their last five La Liga visits to the Bernabeu and on track to finish ahead of their neighbours for the second time in two decades, and Simeone said the fans should be proud.
“We are up against two superpowers, Madrid and Barcelona,” he said. “In Europe, teams like Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus have seen how difficult it is to face them.
“What we have done in this decade is tremendous, Atletico fans should be proud of how their team is competing. Both derbis been very even — we could have won or lost both.
“We have competed very well against Madrid in these last years.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan