Barcelona dominated possession in the first period, but neither side could open the scoring despite a series of half-chances.
Madrid continued to press in the latter stages and finally had their goal through a powerful header from Varane with 10 minutes to play.
Here, Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action between the two sides.
On target: 2
On target: 4
Was the result fair?
On the balance of play, a 1-1 draw was just about a fair reflection of the 90 minutes. Barcelona dominated the possession for large periods as you would expect, but it was Madrid that created the better of the opportunities in the latter stages. But for some poor finishing, Cristiano Ronaldo could have had a couple of goals, but Barcelona were also guilty of missing chances.
Real Madrid's performance
It was vital that Madrid did not lose this match this evening. Not just in terms of this tie, but for their confidence ahead of the rest of the season. They were not at their counter-attacking best in the first period, but were much improved in the second and responded well to falling behind. Hopefully they will be in better shape in terms of numbers by the time the second leg arrives at the end of February.
It was almost the perfect away performance from the Catalan outfit as they entered the final 10 minutes with a 1-0 lead. Some poor marking contributed to the Madrid opener, while they could have lost it in the latter stages but for some good defending. It was a rare off-night for Lionel Messi, however, with the Argentine finding things tough against the impressive Varane.
Sports Mole's man of the match
Raphael Varane: This is not a difficult decision. The 19-year-old Frenchman was just sensational this evening. Not only did he score the late equaliser, but he put in a series of world-class challenges throughout the night. He was also the only Madrid player not to give possession away in the first period.
Biggest gaffe of the match
Madrid defender Ricardo Carvalho had a torrid opening 45 minutes this evening. His worst crime came when he awarded possession to Xavi in the penalty area, but luckily for the Portuguese, Varane was across to clear off the line. He was also perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch following a host of poor challenges.
Carlos Clos was impressive this evening in quite possibly the toughest fixture to referee in European football. He was not prepared to entertain suggestions on which players should be booked and keep his composure under a host of challenges in the first period.
Real Madrid: Madrid return to league action this weekend with a trip to lowly Granada before they welcome Sevilla to the Spanish capital one week later.
Barcelona: The Catalan outfit return to domestic league action away to Valencia on Sunday before facing Getafe at the Camp Nou one week later.