Sergio Ramos' penalty proves the difference again as Real Madrid win
Sergio Ramos was once again Real Madrid's hero from the penalty spot as his side beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 away yesterday for a seventh consecutive win which saw them tighten their grip on the La Liga title.
The hard-fought victory took Zinedine Zidane's side to 77 points after 34 games, seven clear of second-placed Barca who visited in-form Villarreal this morning (Singapore time).
Ramos had converted a late spot-kick against Getafe in Real's last match and the centre-back once again showed nerves of steel by firing into the bottom corner in the 73rd minute for a fifth goal in seven matches.
"I feel most comfortable during moments of the highest tension so I'm the ideal person to take on the responsibility at a moment like this," said the 34-year-old.
"The only thing I was thinking about when taking the penalty was how important it was to get the three points."
Athletic's San Mames Stadium is one of the toughest away venues in Spain. The Basques have beaten Barca twice there this season in the league and Copa del Rey.
Real also faced a gruelling match even without any fans in the stadium, as the Basques continually closed them down and subjected them to their usual aerial bombardment.
Zidane's side missed three good opportunities before the break, but found a way through when Marcelo sprinted into the area and had his foot clipped by the stray boot of Dani Garcia.
The referee went across to the pitchside monitor to review the play before pointing to the spot.
Athletic had a late penalty shout when Ramos appeared to tread on Raul Garcia, but the incident was not reviewed and Zidane's side clung on for a third straight 1-0 win.
"This was one of our hardest games left, against a team whom we always suffer against," said Ramos. "You can see how badly we want to win the league title by how we went out to win the game from the start." - REUTERS