Goals from Neymar and Alexis Sanchez gave Barcelona a 2-1 win over Real Madrid in El Clasico on Saturday evening.
Gareth Bale and Neymar made their debuts in this illustrious fixture as Los Blancos named an experimental line-up – dropping Karim Benzema and Isco, in favour of the Wales international and Sergio Ramos in midfield. For the home side, captain Carles Puyol missed out after not being deemed fit enough following his lengthy injury lay-off – Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano took their places at centre back.
It was a typically open first few moments, with both teams looking to gather early momentum and pose their dominance on the other. Chances though, were at a premium as a Fabregas shot cannoned off of Neymar and Angel Di Maria’s cross was gathered easily by Valdes.
It wasn’t until 19 minutes that a decent chance on goal was created, but that chance was taken clinically by Neymar. Receiving a pass from Andres Iniesta on the left-hand side of the area, the 21-year-old snuck a shot between Dani Carvajal’s legs and placed it delicately into the far corner.
Messi went close soon after, only to shoot wide of Diego Lopez’s right-hand post – but it was clear that Tata Martino’s men were dominating the proceedings.
Slowly though, Carlo Ancelotti’s men started to have more of the ball and were troubling the Barca backline with their pace and power. Bale flew past Pique on 3- minutes and struck from distance, but his effort went well over the bar.
Some tasty challenges were flying in with Adriano, Sergio Busquets and Ramos all going into the book for rash fouls, and that combativeness meant goalscoring opportunities were few and far between.
When a chance did come though, it was only the brilliance of Victor Valdes that stopped the visitors scoring. A cross from Ronaldo on the left found Sami Khedira inside the six yard box, but the Germany international could only watch in horror as his shot was saved brilliantly by the goalkeeper.
After the break, the match was becoming much more stretched with the Santiago Bernabeu side looking to get that much-needed equaliser. Khedira’s runs from deep were causing some confusion, but it was now on the counter that the Catalans were getting more dangerous. An uncharacteristic long ball from Xavi found Neymar inside the area, but the Brazilian’s first time effort was saved well by Diego Lopez.
Valdes was called into action again on the hour mark as he had to produce wrists of steel to stop a Ronaldo pile-driver from going into the back of the net, but the away team were struggling to open up the Barca defence.
Ronaldo had a penalty appeal with 20 minutes to play turned down after he was pushed inside the area by Mascherano, but it was Benzema who went closest to getting a goal back – firing from outside the area, but smacking his effort against the crossbar.
They were made to rue that profligacy on 78 minutes as Alexis Sanchez came off the bench, raced through on goal and chipped the ball delightfully over Diego Lopez for 2-0.
A quick Ronaldo breakaway teed up Jese Rodriguez to pull one back right on 90 minutes, but it wasn’t enough as the home team maintained their unbeaten start to the campaign.
Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
Scorers: Neymar 19 (B), Alexis 78 (B); Jese 90 (RM)
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta (Song 77); Messi, Cesc (Alexis 70), Neymar (Pedro 84)
Real Madrid: Diego López; Carvajal, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo; Ramos (Illarramendi 56), Khedira, Modric; Bale (Benzema 60), Di María (Jese 76), Ronaldo