Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid
A trademark late headed equaliser from Sergio Ramos ensured Real Madrid kept their advantage over Barcelona intact, following a Luis Suarez opener shortly after half-time.
Stepping in as understudy to Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez ran at the Barcelona defence early, drawing a clumsy challenge from Javier Mascherano inside the box, but referee Carlos Gomez showed no interest in awarding a penalty.
Barcelona enjoyed the lump of possession early on, as the league leaders were content to press for the ball, keeping the likes of Messi and Suarez at bay. Neymar was the creative fulcrum of the champions, linking up with Alba on the left flank to whip in some dangerous crosses, but neither could unlock the defensive wall of Varane and Ramos.
After a relatively quiet first fifteen minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo got in on the action, hitting a low effort straight at Ter Stegen, while Messi failed to trouble Keylor Navas from a free kick. Suarez then tried his luck with a swivel and shot straight at the goalkeeper, before Benzema saw an instinctive volley blocked by a defender as the game opened up a little more.
Clear cut chances were still coming at a premium as the first half wore on, with Marcelo the biggest creative outlet for Zidane’s side with frequent crosses into the box. Neither side looked likely to score though, despite a sense of comfort in Madrid’s gameplan to frustrate Barcelona and attack when the opportunities were presented.
The biggest chance of the opening 45 minutes for the visitors came through Ronaldo, who dribbled past a couple of challenges before firing at goal, but Ter Stegen was alive to the danger to keep the Portuguese off the scoresheet.
|Image: La Liga|
In stark contrast, Keylor Navas hadn’t had a great deal of goalmouth action to be a part of, as Luis Enrique’s side were kept quiet in the final third.
However, just seven minutes into the second half, the home side took the lead in style. Neymar drew a foul from Varane, and delivered a delicious ball in from the set-piece to give Luis Suarez the simple task of heading past Navas, which the Uruguayan did with aplomb. Madrid were reeling, and their gameplan was in tatters as their resistance broke down.
|Image: La Liga|
Andres Iniesta entered the foray, looking to control the game from the heart of midfield as Barcelona became more efficient in possession, causing a few problems for Navas with their crosses from deep. With just over twenty minutes remaining, Messi released Neymar down the left, with the Brazil international chopping inside Carvajal with ease. As he shaped to bend an effort around Navas, his shot ballooned into the stands, a potentially costly miss.
Tension mounted as the game entered the final ten minutes, with Real Madrid still trying to find the cutting edge to get the equaliser, as Barcelona reverted to defence and relying on the counter attack to kill off the contest.
|Image: La Liga|
They had the chance to settle the result too, as Iniesta found Messi inside the box, but the Argentine produced an uncharacteristic finish high and wide off target. Ronaldo had a huge opportunity to make him pay at the other end, but his header struck Alba, and was cleared to safety.
Then, in the dying embers of the match, Madrid skipper Ramos rose like a salmon to power a trademark header past Ter Stegen, as Barcelona switched off defensively at completely the wrong moment, prompting wild celebrations in the away end.
The result means Madrid keep up their impressive unbeaten streak, stretching back to January, with a six point lead over Barcelona keeping them in the driving seat of the title race.