Sergio Ramos was once again Real Madrid’s hero from the penalty kick spot as his side beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 away from home on Sunday.
It was a seventh consecutive victory for the winners, and it has now seen them wrap their tentacles ever tighter around the La Liga title.
The hard-fought win took Zinedine Zidane’s side to 77 points after 34 games, seven clear of second-placed Barca who visit in-form Villarreal later on Sunday.
Ramos had converted a late penalty kick against Getafe in Real Madrid’s last match.
The center-back once again showed nerves of steel by firing into the bottom corner in the 73rd minute to score the fifth goal in seven matches.
“I feel most comfortable during moments of the highest tension. So, I think I’m the ideal person to take on responsibility at a moment like this.
“The only thing I was thinking about when taking the penalty kick was how important it was to get the three points,” he said.
Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames is one of the toughest away trips in Spain and the Basques have beaten FC Barcelona twice there this season in the league and Copa del Rey.
Real Madrid also faced a grueling match even without any fans in the stadium, as the Basques continually closed them down and subjected them to their usual aerial bombardment.
Raul Garcia forced Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into a fine early save while Inaki Williams also proved a handful for the visitors.
Zidane’s side meanwhile missed three good opportunities before the break.
Rodrygo and Karim Benzema missed the target with close-range headers and Dani Carvajal bungled a pass which would have handed Benzema an open goal.
They finally 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 Bilbao had a late penalty kick shout ignored when Ramos appeared to tread on Raul Garcia later on.
But the incident was not reviewed and Zidane’s side clung on for a third consecutive 1-0 win, maintaining their flawless run since the season resumed after the coronavirus stoppage.
“It was very important for us to win this one and we’ve done just that. This was one of our hardest games left, against a team who we always suffer against.
“You can see how badly we want to win this league title, and by how we went out to win the game from the start,” added Ramos.