In England it was always referred to as ‘Fergie Time’ in Spain it should just be called ‘Sergio Ramos time’.
The Spain defender headed in Toni Kroos’ 93rd minute corner to give Real Madrid a dramatic 3-2 win over Deportivo to stay six points clear of Barcelona before they head off to Japan for the Club World Cup.
‘It’s all a coincidence isn’t it?’ he said mischievously on the final whistle.
‘When you fight to the very last kick this is what can happen. We didn’t always play well and there is a lot to improve but we got the win.
‘We had the chances in the first half but we left space in behind and they came back.
‘But in the last game of the year we got the win and now we go off to try to win the World Club Cup.’
Ramos raced to celebrate with Zinedine Zidane after the ball hit the back of Przemyslaw Tyton’s net in injury time. The Real Madrid manager would have had some serious questions to answer after the game after leaving Cristiano Ronaldo in the stands and also resting Luka Modric and Karim Benzema and leaving Marcelo on the bench for a game in which he was also without the injured Gareth Bale.
But who needs £250million worth of attacking talent when the centre-half can go up front in the dying moments and be guaranteed to grab a goal? He did it in the European Cup final in 2014, the Super Cup last summer, last week in the Clasico and he had done it again here.
Before Ramos’ interviention it had been a night for young Madrid strikers. Alvaro Morata got the opener and after former Madrid youngster Joselu scored twice for Deportivo, current Madrid youth-teamer Mariano Diaz climbed off the bench to equalise.
The win means Zinedine Zidane’s team has broken the club record of consecutive games without defeat. It was match number 35 without a loss but they certainly did it the hard way.
For 49 minutes it seemed it would be no Ronaldo-no-party as they toiled to break down their opponents without their all-time top scorer.
But with the bespectacled Ronaldo watching in his private box at the Santiago Bernabeu with his new girlfriend Georgina Rodriquez his stand-in at centre-forward scored a goal that the Portuguese would have been proud of.
James Rodriguez started the move by winning the ball back in midfield. Isco moved it on to Morata and he spun away from Raul Albentosa before lashing the ball from the edge of the area beyond Tyton’s dive.
It should have put Real Madrid in easy street but in three minutes they had thrown their lead away. Carlos Gil set up Joselu after Casemiro had lost the ball to Florin Andone and substitute Joselu greedily accepted the chance to level. The goal was all the more sweet because he grew up playing for Madrid alongside Morata in the club’s youth team. Neither he nor Deportivo were finished. Florin Andone crossed and Joselu got in front of Ramos to put the visitors ahead despite the diving Keylor Navas getting a touch.
It was only Joselu’s third goal in La Liga. He scored his first for Real Madrid in the 2010-11 season and five years later the second and third came against the club that got rid of him, in part to make way for the emerging Morata, in 2012.
He went out on loan to Hoffenheim, Frankfurt, Hannover and Stoke before returning to Spain. He didn’t do it in Stoke but here he was doing it in the Bernabeu.
It was turning into a great night for Madrid youth team strikers so Real brought on another one in the shape of 23-year-old Mariano for Isco and flying winger Lucas Vazquez also came on for Marco Asensio and Marcelo for Danilo.
It had to be Mariano who got the next goal and so it was. Vazquez provided the cross and Mariano found the corner to put Real Madrid back on level terms.
As the action became increasingly frantic and Zidane turned to the stands to, Simeone-style, urge the supporters to raise the roof, there was an inevitability about what was coming.
Real Madrid forced a late corner. Kroos’ kick found Ramos and the ball ended up where it always ends when Ramos decides to have the last say.