Monday December 5th, 2016

It doesn't happen if Lionel Messi scores after Andres Iniesta puts him through on goal midway through the second half. It doesn't happen if Arda Turan doesn't concede a free kick with one minute left to play. And it doesn't happen if Luka Modric’s set piece is anything less than perfectly delivered. But it did, and once again Real Madrid, and in particular Sergio Ramos, scored a very late goal with an enormous impact, this time forcing a 1-1 draw with rival Barcelona at Camp Nou.

The same happened in the 2014 Champions League final, when Real Madrid was 1-0 down to Atletico Madrid with 94 minutes played. Ramos equalized and Madrid went on to win the trophy, la decima, after a 4-1 triumph in extra time. It also happened last August, with Madrid losing to Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup before Ramos headed home in the 90th minute. So it should be no surprise that it was Ramos again, scoring his 47th goal in La Liga (now more than Roberto Carlos but some way off top-scoring defender Ronald Koeman, who had 67), to maintain Madrid’s six-point cushion at the top of the league. This is his habit, as AS columnist Alfredo Relano put it: “Dramatic goals in major matches, which means we remember him [Ramos] more for those than for his long, efficient defensive career.”

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Ramos's youth coach at Sevilla, where he started his career, said he always had an eye for goal.

“His play was more about attacking intent than defensive solidity,” Manolo Jimenez told So Foot. “Then we taught him to defend. We worked on his placement, his defensive attitudes. He accepted without flinching, he forced himself to improve and accepted criticism.”

The Madrid spin on the result–which extended its unbeaten run to 33 games–that it was deserved seems a bit generous given the chances that Neymar and Messi missed after Luis Suarez had broken the deadlock, also from a set piece. Even though Madrid created little, with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo rarely threatening, snatching a point shows plenty about its character.

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Late goals have been a habit of the team this season: from Alvaro Morata’s winner against Sporting in the Champions League (90th minute), to Benzema’s in the return game (87th minute), as well as Mateo Kovacic at Legia Warsaw (85th), Morata against Athletic Bilbao (82nd) and Toni Kroos against Celta Vigo (82nd).

Picking up a draw at Camp Nou, in this manner and without the injured Gareth Bale, must have felt like a win for manager Zinedine Zidane. 

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