Ramos leads Madrid in defense- and from the penalty spot

By JOSEPH WILSON

Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) With his physical, intimidating style, Sergio Ramos has long had the reputation of dominating the area.

Now the Real Madrid defender, who infamously holds the Spanish league record of 19 career red cards, can also claim to be among the best when stepping up to the penalty spot.

Ramos has made all eight spot kicks he has been taken this season.

His latest penalty re-established Madrid's advantage for good in its 3-1 in in the Madrid derby on Saturday. The goal was part of a commanding performance by Ramos, who also set up Casemiro's opening goal by jumping higher than three opponents and anchored a defense that conceded very few scoring chances to an Atletico Madrid lineup that hadn't lost at home all season.

"I take the responsibility (of taking penalties) with immense pleasure," Ramos said after the victory that lifted Madrid past Atletico and into second place in the league behind Barcelona.

"We can only hope that there are many more to come and I keep up my good run of converting them."

The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus last summer gave Ramos the chance to show off his penalty-taking skills. Ramos doesn't just rely on pure power - he often opts for the finesse of the "paneka" kick, when the penalty-taker fools the goalkeeper into moving first by hesitating before softly scooping the ball down the middle.

Ramos has not always had such good results from the spot.

In the 2012 Champions League semifinals, Ramos was one of three Madrid players, along with Ronaldo and Kaka, who missed their attempts in a shootout loss to Bayern Munich. Ramos' miss was glaring, as his blast went well over the bar.

Ramos has kept practicing.

His strike from the penalty spot against Atletico's Jan Oblak was expertly slotted just between the post and the goalkeeper's outstretched gloves. It was Ramos's 11th goal of the season, setting a new personal record for goals scored in a season - and it's far from over. His previous best was 10 goals in 2016-17.

"We knew he would get us a goal," Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois said.

Madrid takes on Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday, and is aiming for its fourth consecutive title.

Alvaro Morata is yet to make an impact since returning to Spain from Chelsea, this time in an Atletico uniform.

Morata was ineffective against Madrid, another of his former clubs, and didn't score in either match since joining Atletico.

He did show some fine finishing skills by deftly controlling a long pass before chipping the ball over Courtois, only to have the goal waived off for off-sides after a video review.

Atletico's season now hinges of the Champions League, where it will face Juventus in the round-of-16 in two weeks.

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Updated February 11, 2019

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