Ramos 19 res­cues Real in El Cla­sico stale­mate

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Ser­gio Ramos’s stop­page-time equaliser main­tained Real Madrid’s six-point lead at the top of La Liga as the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons sal­vaged a 1-1 draw at Barcelona in yes­ter­day’s El Cla­sico. Luis Suarez looked to have breathed new life into the ti­tle race when he headed home the opener from Ney­mar’s free-kick eight min­utes into the sec­ond half.

Ney­mar and Lionel Messi then passed up huge chances to add to Barca’s ad­van­tage, and the hosts were made to pay when Real cap­tain Ramos met Luka Mo­dric’s free-kick with a pow­er­ful header to stretch Madrid’s un­beaten run in all com­pe­ti­tions to 33 games. Be­fore kick-off both sides came to­gether to pay homage to the 71 vic­tims that wiped out al­most the en­tirety of Brazil­ian side Chapecoense’s squad in a plane crash in Colom­bia ear­lier in the week.

How­ever, once the ac­tion got un­der­way old hos­til­i­ties were re­newed as Madrid screamed for a penalty less than two min­utes in. Lu­cas Vazquez went down un­der Javier Mascher­ano’s chal­lenge, but ref­eree Car­los Clos Gomez waved play on.

Barcelona en­joyed the ma­jor­ity of pos­ses­sion, but with cap­tain An­dres Ini­esta left on the bench on his re­turn from a two-month in­jury lay­off, lacked the cre­ativ­ity to break down Madrid be­fore the break. Sergi Roberto’s shot was de­flected be­hind by Raphael Varane be­fore Messi’s harm­less free-kick was eas­ily han­dled by Key­lor Navas.

At the other end the spot­light was on Cris­tiano Ron­aldo more than ever in the ab­sence of the in­jured Gareth Bale and fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of grand scale tax avoid­ance pub­lished by a se­ries of Euro­pean me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions on Satur­day. The Por­tuguese came to life to­wards the end of the first-half as he had Madrid’s first shot on tar­get that was turned be­hind by Marc-An­dre ter Ste­gen eight min­utes be­fore half-time and the Ger­man stood firm to deny an­other driven Ron­aldo ef­fort mo­ments later. Varane also headed straight at Ter Ste­gen as Madrid looked the more likely to break the dead­lock as half-time ap­proached.

How­ever, Barca got the goal they badly needed to kick­start their ti­tle de­fence when Ney­mar’s free-kick from the left found Suarez some­how un­marked to head home from point blank range. Ini­esta was then in­tro­duced to a hero’s wel­come and teed up Ney­mar for a huge chance to seal the three points 21 min­utes from time. The Brazil­ian skipped past Dani Car­va­jal, but blasted over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Madrid sub­sti­tute Casemiro then made a bril­liant block to deny an­other goal­bound Ney­mar shot. Ini­esta pro­duced a sub­lime pass to lay the chance Messi had been wait­ing for all af­ter­noon on a plate, but the Ar­gen­tine pulled his ef­fort wide of the far post with just Navas to beat. And Barca were made to pay for their profli­gacy as Ramos rose un­marked to power home Mo­dric’s free-kick as the game en­tered stop­page time to si­lence the Camp Nou.

BARCELONA: Real Madrid’s Costa Ri­can goal­keeper Key­lor Navas (CL) clears the ball past Barcelona’s Ar­gen­tinian for­ward Lionel Messi dur­ing the Span­ish league foot­ball match FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou sta­dium in Barcelona yes­ter­day. — AFP

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