Barcelona moved four points clear through a dominant second half show against Real Madrid in the ‘El Clasico’ tie. This victory might prove to be the difference between the two sides with only 10 games to go in the season. It was Real who pushed Barca on the backfoot in the first half despite Jeremy Mathieu opening the scoring after 18 minutes. A Lionel Messi corner was thundered past Iker Casillas by the French defender but Cristiano Ronaldo silenced the Nou Camp with a cool toe-poke finish.
Ronaldo, who was unlucky not to have taken the lead after the inspired Karim Benzema delivered a sumptuous ball to the ball to the far post. The Portuguese’s shot hit the underside of the bar and it was the Frenchman who set up the equaliser too. With a stylish backheel, the Ballon d’Or holder was through on goal and he toe-poked the ball past Claudio Bravo. Barca’s defence was all over the place and were collecting cards too.
The half-time came at the wrong moment for Real as they had just gathered momentum heading into the break. Madrid were losing their shape and discipline the tackles were flying in. They had three from their back four booked as Barca enjoyed a good spell of goalmouth action. It was sheer brilliance from Dani Alves and Luis Suarez that got Barca their winner. Alves, with the ball at his feet in the right wing, delivered a sweeping 60-yeard cross-field ball and Suarez eliminated two defenders with his immaculate first tough. The Uruguayan drifted to his right and slotted the ball home.
Ronaldo and co were culpable of going missing in the second half. Benzema was running the show all by himself and Bale had a game to forget. Toni Kroos and Luca Modric were neat but failed to impose their presence on the game. The same can be said about Isco too. Barca were creating a wave of attacks as Real’s attempts kept breaking down. Neymar was utterly wasteful up front. Just before Real’s equaliser, he had missed a sitter from point blank range and ended up shooting tamely at Casillas. Messi eased his way past the midfield and curled the ball to the left corner but went inches wide. Neymar missed a couple of glorious chances. The Brazilian created one and shot narrowly wide and the second chance was another move that Messi masterminded, skipping past two defenders and slipped a ball to the Brazilian talisman, who blasted it to the side netting.
For Barca, it was smooth sailing for the better part of the second half but had some nervy moments towards the end. As Real looked for the equaliser, space opened up at the back for the Blaugurana, whose final passes went astray. With time running out, Carlo Ancelotti probably missed a trick by not sending on Javier Hernandez. He brought Lucas Silva on instead. Luis Enrique’s side hung on in an entertaining contest that saw a plethora of yellow cards from both sides. It was relief more than bragging rights that was writ large on the faces of the Catalonians at the final whistle.