Sergio Ramos does it again. With Barcelona seconds from a hard-fought Clasico win he rose to head in a Luka Modric free-kick on 90 minutes.
It was no more than Real Madrid deserved and it means they stay six points clear at the top with an unbeaten run that now stretches 33 games.
If it was typical Ramos to get a late leveller it had been classic Luis Suarez on 52 minutes when he put Barcelona ahead. Like a bumper car in the six-yard box he first bounced off Lucas Vazquez and then off Raphael Varane before heading Neymar’s free-kick past Keylor Navas to score.
Neymar had won the foul after being brought down by Varane. Neither the Brazilian nor the Uruguayan had threatened in the first half but they had combined to give the home side the lead and they celebrated like team-mates who knew they were in front without having played well.
The goal was well-timed because Andres Iniesta came on at the hour mark having been spared the full 90 minutes by Luis Enrique, keen to protect him after his six-week spell out injured with damaged knee ligaments.
Barcelona now had the control they had lacked for much of the rest of the game. Even Sergio Busquets – who was outstanding throughout – seemed buoyed by the change pirouetting away from Isco and Zinedine Zidane responded by putting on Casemiro for Isco. For the first time in the game Madrid needed to get the ball off Barcelona.
Now it was Barcelona’s chance to miss their chances. Neymar should have scored the second when he went past Carvajal in the area after being played in by Messi only to blaze over. He was then put through by Messi again and his time Ramos blocked.
They paid for the failure to put the game to bed when Arda Turan tripped Marcelo and from Modric’s free-kick Ramos did what Ramos does best.
Madrid were lively all over the pitch earlier on and Lucas Vazquez wanted a penalty when challenged by Javier Mascherano in the area. The defender got a touch on the ball just before the two collided.
Luis Enrique was furious with a Luka Modric challenge on Lionel Messi that was not dissimilar to a foul on Iniesta earlier in the season that ruled him out for six weeks earlier.
The midfielder had expected to start this one but was left on the bench and he was missed in the first half by neutrals and Barcelona fans alike. It was a scrappy affair.
The Barcelona manager almost went for the fourth official in protest at the foul but the referee did not go for his cards. He had booked Isco moments earlier for something far more innocuous.
El Clasico was not proving to be much of a classic and Barca’s best chance came route one when a long ball over the top to Neymar was crossed by the Brazilian to Suarez whose shot was blocked.
Suarez was then wrestled to the ground by Ramos under referee Carlos Clos’ nose but again the referee did not blow his whistle. He did take action when Neymar clipped Lucas Vazquez’ ankles despite protests from home players.
We had seen little of La Liga top scorer Ronaldo but he raced down the left nine minutes before the break and tested Marc Andre ter Stegen with a shot at his near post.
He then twinkled-toed through the centre of Barcelona’s defence side-stepping Pique and nutmegging Mascherano but again couldn’t beat Ter Stegen.
Madrid were finishing the half strongly and it was Raphael Varane who got up to head an Isco corner goalwards. Ter Stegen made the save.
Ronaldo was then serenaded by Barcelona supporters with ‘come out of the closet’ for which the club will be fined.
La Liga is very keen to clamp down on homophobia at football grounds of late and will take action. Ronaldo had been very lively late in the half and Barca were glad to get down the tunnel still on terms.
They look to have paid for not making the most of the first half chances when Suarez headed in only his second goal in the last six games the Camp Nou erupted and Barcelona – Iniesta inspired – looked like seeing out time.
But Ramos got the last touch of the 90 minutes and it was the touch that keeps Real Madrid unbeaten and six points clear.
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