Sergio Ramos penalty sets up Real Madrid's clásico victory over Barcelona

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Sergio Ramos penalty sets up Real Madrid's clásico victory over Barcelona
Sergio Ramos celebrates after converting a penalty he won in the second half at Camp Nou. Photograph: Antonio Villalba/Real Madrid/Getty Images

Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric seal Real Madrid victory over Barcelona

By the end of what may be his final clásico at the Camp Nou, Lionel Messi wore a lost look that has become all too familiar for Barcelona fans. Luka Modric had just stepped away from their goalkeeper, Norberto Neto, to score a third Real Madrid goal and secure victory, the ball hitting the net and shouts cutting through the silence of an empty arena, heard above the helicopter that whirred overhead.

Barcelona had much of the ball but they could not find a way through when they sought the lead or a way back when they trailed and ultimately were beaten again, the revolution postponed once more.

This had been a day to prove a point after consecutive defeats, Zinedine Zidane had said. And while it had required a second-half penalty awarded by VAR and scored by Sergio Ramos, the players he said he would back “to the death” did that. Either side of that strike, goals from Fede Valverde and Modric took Madrid to victory.

Zidane, who was under pressure, has never been beaten at Barcelona as a manager. Messi left unable to score a clásico goal again, a run that goes back 900 days.

 

Without fans this was no grand occasion and the football was rarely of the very highest order, not the feast of before, but the timidity that had appeared set to define this game was swept away early. Two goals arrived in the opening eight minutes, Karim Benzema releasing Valverde for a well-taken first and Ansu Fati equalising two minutes later when Barcelona pulled a familiar trick. Messi found Jordi Alba racing up the left, chest out, head back, legs whirring, and he delivered the perfect pull-back for Fati to become the youngest goalscorer in the history of this fixture.

Luka Modric celebrates after his late goal ensured victory for Real Madrid. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Madrid were struggling to deal with Alba, who was flying. Messi, too, was active, twice almost running through Madrid and brought down at the last both times.

This was becoming an enjoyable game, bursting into life with a single sequence that brought three chances in a minute, two of them one-on-ones. From the north end to the south and back again it went, beginning with Raphaël Varane’s blocked header from the edge of the six-yard box, continuing with Thibaut Courtois making an excellent save from Messi and concluding with Neto denying Benzema. Both stops impressed; both attackers should have scored.

Early in the second half, Fati flashed a shot just wide and then clipped to the far post where Philippe Coutinho should have scored but he headed wide. The move had begun after Messi somehow escaped into space, the team running to join him, but just as Barcelona seemed to be taking a hold of this Madrid’s moment arrived.

The referee was called to the VAR screen where he watched a replay of Ramos falling, his shirt in Clement Lenglet’s hand. Ramos did what he does and scored from the spot, not the slightest glimpse of doubt. It was effectively the winner in his 45th clásico – more than anyone else.

There was still defending to do, though. Barcelona pressed. Messi slipped a clever ball to Alba, whose cross was pushed away by Courtois and Coutinho, following up, could not finish.

If traffic was one-way, there was little clarity and few chances for Barcelona, Madrid seemingly content to await them. A Messi free-kick clipped the wall and Frenkie De Jong’s header hit Casemiro but that was it.

With 10 minutes left, Ronald Koeman made a treble change – on came Antoine Griezmann, Francisco Trincão and Ousmane Dembélé. The formation broken, the change made Barcelona worse, not better.

Three clear chances followed, but all of them were Madrid’s, Neto making a double save from Toni Kroos then denying Ramos before Modric calmly evaded him in additional time and, with the outside of the boot, ended it.

 

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