BARCELONA: Sergio Ramos stepped up once more for Real Madrid in a major match, scoring in the 90th minute to force a 1-1 draw at Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium in Saturday’s El Clasico.
“Sergio has this special capacity to do things like this,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “In games like this, he is always there, encouraging the other players and never gives up.”
The Spain defender charged in to head Luka Modric’s free kick past goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who got a hand on the ball but couldn’t keep it out.
Luis Suarez’s header from a free kick by Neymar had given Barcelona the lead in the 53rd minute of a ‘Clasico’ that failed to live up to its billing early on.
The stalemate favoured Zidane’s Real, who left Camp Nou with their six-point advantage atop La Liga intact with Barca second.
“Our effort paid off,” Ramos said. “We were able to maintain the difference. We can’t go crazy. There is still a long way to go, but we depend on ourselves.”
Real are searching for their first domestic league title since 2012.
In his 12 seasons at Madrid, the 30-year-old Ramos has a knack of striking late in big games, including his headed goal to force added time in the 2014 Champions League final, which Real went on to win against Atletico Madrid.
He also scored an equaliser after 90 minutes were up against Sevilla in this season’s UEFA Super C
“I have to once again highlight the heart of this team, they believed until the end and got the draw which is important,” said Zidane.
Ramos” goal on Saturday stunned Barca, who were on the cusp of reviving their title defence.
Instead, they have now drawn three rounds in a row and only won two of their last seven matches overall, a particularly poor run for a side boasting an attack of Messi, Neymar and Suarez.
“We did everything we could to take the three points. We were the superior team but if you don’t take your chances this is what happens,” Suarez said. “We have to stay strong, keep going and hope Real drop points here and there. There’s still a long way to go.”
Barca coach Luis Enrique also blamed a lack of efficiency in front of goal.
“The performance of the team was better than the opponent in my opinion. Football has been unfair to us,” said Enrique.
“It is a huge blow for all of us but we have only played 14 games in the league and there is a long way to go. We have to improve our performance and get better results, especially at home, because we are miles off where we want to be.”
Real are top with 34 points from 14 matches while second-placed Barca have 28. Sevilla are third on 27 after suffering a shock 2-1 defeat at Granada who recorded their first league win of the season.
Atletico, fourth on 25 points, failed to take advantage of the Clasico stalemate as they were held to a goalless draw at home to Espanyol while Villarreal were fifth after being held 0-0 at Leganes.