EL CLASICO: Real Madrid scored in the 90th-minute to snatch a 1-1 draw against Barcelona after an unimpressive and lackluster Clasico.
Sergio Ramos saved the visitors when he steered a Luka Modric free-kick to cancel out Luis Suarez’s opener and stretch Madrid’s unbeaten run to 33 matches in all competitions and a 6 points lead over their arch rivals.
Suarez nodded in Neymar’s free-kick shortly after half-time to put Barca ahead in a cagey contest at Camp Nou, and the home side spurned a number of opportunities to double their advantage before Ramos struck.
In a game in which opportunities were at a premium, Barca eventually found a breakthrough with a simple set-piece, although they were arguably a little fortunate that referee Carlos Clos Gomez did not penalise Suarez for a push in the build-up.
Confidence around Camp Nou had been shaky given Barca’s dreadful showing in the draw with Real Sociedad last week, but the crowd made their approval clear as the home side began to control proceedings shortly after Andres Iniesta came off the bench for his first appearance since October.
Neymar and Lionel Messi both missed clear chances to settle the contest and the champions were punished when Ramos – thrown forward as an auxiliary striker late on – salvaged a draw to keep Madrid unbeaten in the league and firmly in control of the title race.
Barca’s first slick move of the game saw Neymar pick out Sergi Roberto at the far post, with further penalty appeals dismissed despite the full-back’s protestations that Ramos had blocked the ball with his upper arm.
Chances were few and far between in the first half hour, with Ronaldo’s tame header and a Messi free-kick that was comfortably caught by Keylor Navas the only efforts of note from the Clasico’s star duo.
Barca were becoming frustrated as a diligent Madrid kept them at bay without any real difficulty, and Ter Stegen had to be alert twice to deny Ronaldo from 18 yards from two encouraging counter-attacks.
Ronaldo blasted over from a tight angle just after the break, but although Madrid continued to look the more likely, it was Barca who snatched the lead after 53 minutes.
Neymar’s free-kick from close to the corner flag was headed low past Navas by Suarez from six yards, with referee Clos Gomez happy to allow the goal to stand despite the visitors appealing for a push from the Uruguay international on Lucas.
The goal and the return of captain Iniesta – a replacement for Ivan Rakitic – galvanised the home side, as they began to take more control of midfield and frustrate Madrid with better spells of possession.
Neymar spurned a glorious opportunity to settle the contest with just over 20 minutes to play as he raced into the penalty area past Dani Carvajal before rifling a shot over the crossbar from 12 yards out, much to the frustrations of coach Luis Enrique.
Iniesta then saw a shot deflected into the side-netting and Messi dragged a promising opening wide from inside the area, before Ramos leapt highest to power Modric’s free-kick past Ter Stegen to punish the champions.
Reacting to the result, Ramos suggested that Real Madrid did not deserve their 1-1 draw: “I don’t know if it’s a completely fair the result,” Ramos admitted. “But it was a great pass from Modric.
“It was really important to keep playing for a point. We worked hard to get the result.
“It was a very competitive game – both teams wanted possession in the first half and we maybe had more chances [before half-time].
“We weren’t as efficient as we could have been, but a point is better than nothing and allows us to keep the advantage in the league.
“It was an intense game that we played to our limit and it is a reward for the good work we’ve been doing since the start of the season.
“There’s a long way to go, but it’s better to rely on yourself rather than others.”