Clutch Sergio Ramos heads Real Madrid back atop La Liga
The clutch legacy of Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos continues to grow. Ramos scored twice in the Champions League win against Napoli–not one as dramatic as Barcelona’s over PSG but with the reigning European champion appearing to be on the ropes, it needed a hero–and then one more, perhaps just as crucial, in Sunday’s come-from-behind win over Real Betis.
Barcelona had already stumbled in its earlier kickoff at Deportivo La Coruna. A much-changed side–with no Neymar and starts for Arda Turan, Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez–seemed to still be recovering from the PSG match and lost 2-1 at the Riazor. That left the way clear for Madrid to go back on top, but it only just managed to. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas was a key figure: he could (and should) have been sent off for taking out Darko Brasanac outside the area. He then failed to keep out Antonio Sanabria’s shot, making such a mess of it that it went down as an own goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo could have been the savior: he got the comeback started with the equalizer and had a second goal ruled out for offside. So instead up popped Ramos, heading home Toni Kroos’s corner, the seventh time those two have combined this season.
There was a late twist when Navas kept out a Sanabria effort, leading coach Zinedine Zidane to generously claim the goalkeeper had won his side two points.
“I just go out to play relaxed, and try and do my job,” Navas said after his reprieve from referee Mateu Lahoz. "There are moments when things do not go well, and others times they do. You must keep a cool head, and know how to manage the situation. I have had bad moments and many good moments. I hope to get back to the good moments.”
His match will not dampen speculation that Real Madrid wants a long-term replacement to Iker Casillas at the Bernabeu, and that currently David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois–both once of crosstown rival Atletico–top the list. Either one leaving would signal a goalkeeping merry-go-round in England.
The one constant that remains for Real Madrid, though, is Ramos coming through when the club needs him most.