Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late winner as 10-man Real Madrid came back from behind to secure a famous 2-1 victory over Barcelona in Saturday’s Clasico.
Barca were at full strength as Rafinha featured in a matchday squad for the first time since last September, while Madrid stuck with Casemiro after the Brazilian was not used in the reverse fixture last November – a 4-0 home defeat for Los Blancos.
Despite Barca’s 10 point lead on Madrid at the top of the table, Johan Cruyff’s passing last Thursday made for one of their most charged encounters in recent memory as all eight living Blaugrana Presidents were present in Camp Nou’s presidential box, before applause was heard on the 14th minute, the number he wore during his time at Barca as a player.
The first half saw the Catalans enjoy more possession and the visitors retreat further as the game wore thin, and Suarez should’ve broken the deadlock when he shook off Sergio Ramos from a ball over the top. Neymar was onside when the No 9 played the ball into him, but the Brazilian’s cross went through his legs, despite having the goal at his mercy.
Dani Carvajal then risked a red card as a strong tackle on Andres Iniesta was followed by a kick into the back of Suarez’s legs as the Uruguayan readied to turn his marker on the edge of the box, before Ramos could’ve left Madrid with two men down, his outstretched leg on Lionel Messi in Los Blancos’ D going unpunished.
Back to the goalmouth action, however, and Ivan Rakitic picked up a loose ball in the final third and opted to play it wide instead of going for the shot himself, but he then got a second bite of the cherry and bent a low effort towards the bottom-left corner, which Keylor Navas pushed away.
Cristiano Ronaldo was a spectator for much of the early exchanges, but he did fire a shot at Claudio Bravo from the right, which stungs the palms of Bravo, before Bale volleyed over from the rebound, while Benzema, usually so prolific against Barca, got his lines horribly wrong as a cross fell to him unmarked in the hosts’ area, but his volley sailed into orbit.
The tense nature of proceedings continued after the break, and Messi shrug off a couple of challenges before playing a one-two with Suarez, and he eventually tried to lob Navas, only for the goalkeeper to tip the ball over, yet Gerard Pique pulled off his marker from a corner and powered a header past Navas moments later.
If that was a quick response, Madrid put together one of the moves of the season just six minutes after as a series of quick interchanges soon resulted in Toni Kroos sending a deflected cross into the Barca box for Benzema to acrobatically fire home.
The goal gave Madrid the momentum as Barca’s play slowed while the visitors became more dangerous, although Casemiro made sure Rafa Benitez’s decision to drop him in the game at the Santiago Bernabeu was made all the more baffling, the Brazilian providing Los Blancos with much-needed balance in the middle of the park thanks to his industry and anticipation.
Moments after Suarez’s volley across goal whistled just wide, however, Gareth Bale appeared to score a perfectly-legitimate header at the back post, but it was ruled out as Alba collapsed under the Welshman, before Ronaldo unleashed a piledriver from some way out, which clipped the bar.
Nonetheless, the Portuguese rose to the occasion and silenced his critics in the process as he blasted Bale’s far-post cross past Bravo, but not before Ramos was shown a straight red card for a lunge too many late on as Los Blancos held on to move within seven points of Barca at the summit and ended their opponents’ 39-game unbeaten run.
Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
Pique 56 (B) Benzema 62, Ronaldo 85, Ramos sent off 83 (RM)
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic (Arda 74), Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Casemiro; Bale (Vazquez 90), Benzema (Jese 80), Ronaldo
Referee: Hernandez Hernandez