Real Madrid returned to the La Liga summit as they defeated Barcelona 3-1 in the 250th El Clásico. The title holders avenged their loss at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in this fixture last season and inflicted the Blaugrana’s first defeat of the league campaign, Abbeylivenetwork.com reports.
After a bruising draw with Inter Milan that left Barcelona’s UEFA Champions League hopes hanging by a thread, all eyes were on Xavi’s team selection for his 50th game in charge. Los Blancos clearly identified a weakness at right-back, targeting Sergi Roberto by utilising Vinícius Júnior’s pace in behind the Spaniard. That paid immediate dividends as Real took the lead after the Brazilian ran through on the left, forcing Marc-André ter Stegen into a save before Karim Benzema slammed home the rebound, ending a five-game scoreless streak in style.
The visitors spurned a huge opportunity to equalise through Robert Lewandowski, but the usually lethal striker fluffed his lines. Raphinha’s low cross from the right picked out the Poland captain at the back post from point-blank range, but he uncharacteristically fired over. That miss would be punished emphatically by Carlo Ancelotti’s lethal champions, as a quick counter opened the defence, allowing Federico Valverde the room on the edge of the area to unleash a fierce drive that proved too hot to handle, sending Real in with a two-goal lead at the break.
The hosts’ tactics were perfectly suited to protecting their advantage, and the Galacticos were happy enough to surrender the majority of possession and strike on the counter. Benzema netted soon after the restart, but Barcelona were saved by the offside flag. With more options on his bench, Xavi made three alterations on the hour mark in an attempt to tilt the scales in his favour, but his side’s chances looked bleak, with the first goalscorer going on to win each of the last seven Clásico editions played on this ground.
With hope of a Barcelona comeback dwindling, two of their substitutes combined to reduce the arrears and spread nerves around the Bernabéu. Ansu Fati burst past his marker with relative ease on the left before firing a low cross to the back post, where Ferran Torres was waiting to slide home. Mounting pressure from the visitors was extinguished when Rodrygo won a penalty in stoppage time after being tripped by Eric García. The Brazilian stepped up himself and drove home from 12 yards, sealing his side’s fifth Head to Head victory from the last six La Liga meetings.