Fans at Camp Nou were in jubilation mode as the 90-minute regulation play neared. Luis Suarez had put Barcelona ahead in 53rd minute and they were heading to a 1-0 victory. Most smiling FCB fans didn’t think much of Arda Turan conceding a free kick in the 89th minute nor did they see Luka Modric preparing for taking the strike. Suddenly all the laughter was gone. As Modric’s perfectly taken angular cross came from left, Sergio Ramos synchronized his jump to meet the ball with his head. Everything worked for Real Madrid as the defender’s powerful close-range header went flying past FCB goalkeeper Ter Stegen into the goal. Camp Nou was instantly stunned. The match lasted for another 2 minutes, added as injury time and ended drawn at 1-1.
The La Liga clash between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid had a season-defining element. Each team has played only 14 games this season and 25 more are yet to be played but Real Madrid have already established themselves as the leaders. They lead Barcelona by 6 points and their unbeaten streak of 32 matches has continued since April 2016. They traveled to Barcelona to add another 3 points but the drawn game prevented that. Barcelona are the reigning La Liga champions but they haven’t shown much to prove that status this season. Saturday’s El Clasico at Camp Nou was a real chance to cut the deficit to 3 points and they came close. But Sergio Ramos turned out to be a villain in the drama. Ramos is known for last-gasp finishes from earlier games and he proved his worth yet again.
Camp Nou was expectedly packed to capacity as the teams came out of the tunnel. Before the start, everyone observed a minute’s silence for victims of the plane crash at Colombia, in which 71 people had died. Several members of Brazilian football club Chapecoense were also among the dead. Then they got into action for the first half of the play. In the 3rd minute, FCB’s Javier Mascherano looked like pushing Real Madrid’s Lucas Vazquez in the box but despite Lucas falling down, referee negated any chance of a penalty. It was a lucky let-off for Barca because TV replays clearly showed the offence. In the 9th minute, Neymar had a chance with a first-time pass but he slipped near the goal. Neymar slipped again 10 minutes later and at the same time Modric fouled Messi. Messi took the free kick, cleared the wall but couldn’t beat goalkeeper Keylor Navas. 2 minutes later, Barcelona had another chance, when Neymar found Suarez in the box but his shot was blocked by Madrid’s Varane. The rest of the first half was full of half chances and neither goalkeeper was really tested. They ended goalless after the first 45 minutes.
Two minutes from restart, Messi sent a pass for Suarez in the box but there was an interception from Carvajal, who conceded a corner. While nothing came out from the corner, Barca earned a free-kick in the 52nd minute. Neymar produced a great cross into the box, where Suarez leapt high and pushed a header past Navas. Camp Nou immediately came to life with the home team taking the lead. Barca were fortified in the 59th minute with Andres Iniesta coming out in place of Ivan Rakitic. Suarez’s goal had brought new spring in Barcelona’s feets and they looked far superior to Madrid with 25 minutes left for play. In the 68th minute Barcelona missed a big chance to make it 2-0, when Iniesta sent a great pass to Neymar on the left side. The Brazilian cut through after going around Carvajal but his shot went over the bar from a mere 10 yards. With frustration mounting for Real, Crajaval whacked Neymar and was promptly yellow-carded. Arrival of Iniesta was proving fruitful as the Barca skipper found Messi in good position with 9 minutes left. Messi had a clear sight on the goal but got his angles wrong and his shot went wide.
Time was running out for Real Madrid and Barca supporters at Camp Nou had already begun their dance as the last minute approached. As fate would have it Barca’s Arda Turan committed a foul with just one minute left. Player of the match Luka Modric did what Neymar had done for Barca 46 minutes ago. His kicked cross came to Sergio Ramos at a mouth-watering height. Ramos rose at the right time and met his head with the ball powerfully. The well-directed header from 7 yards left no chance for Ter Stegen and Real Madrid found the much-needed equalizer. It was a huge comedown for home fans but Real Madrid kept their long undefeated streak intact. Ramos had done the same during UEFA Super Cup victory over Sevilla in August 2016 and also against Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League. It was a great finish with both goals coming in a nearly identical fashion.
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