Spanish La Liga
Barcelona2Real Madrid1

Five things we learned from El Clasico

Barcelona v Real Madrid
Barcelona avenged their 3-1 defeat by Madrid at the Bernabeu in October

Luis Suarez scored a brilliant second-half winner as Barcelona maintained control of the Spanish title race by beating Real Madrid in a pulsating Clasico.

Cristiano Ronaldo cancelled out an early header from Jeremy Mathieu before Suarez struck to leave the hosts four points clear at the top of La Liga.

Although Barca made the brighter start, Real soon got into the game and had the first big chance when Karim Benzema's cross found Ronaldo unmarked at the far post, but he did not have much angle to work with and could only send his cushioned volley against the crossbar.

Barca then went ahead after Suarez won a free-kick, Lionel Messi swung it into the middle and French centre-back Mathieu arrived unmarked to send a perfectly placed header past the dive of Iker Casillas.

But Real battled quickly back and a dramatic minute saw Suarez's cross-shot present Neymar with a golden chance which he put straight at Casillas, before Real immediately broke and Benzema's brilliant backheel found Ronaldo for a low stabbed finish.

Barcelona v Real Madrid

Real finished the opening period in the ascendancy as Gareth Bale had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside and Ronaldo forced a good save from Claudio Bravo with a thunderous long-range drive.

The visiting team made a similarly strong start to the second half with an early chance for Benzema saved. But Barca then re-established the advantage with a decidedly route one goal as Brazil right-back Dani Alves delivered a long ball over the top, Suarez produced brilliant control and then steered a perfectly placed low finish into the bottom left corner.

The home team were dominant after that, squandering several chances to double their lead as Neymar ended a brilliant run by shooting over and then thrashed a shot wide after a pass from Messi, while Casillas did well to save from both Messi and Jordi Alba.

Real had little answer and, aside from a deflected strike from Benzema which Bravo did well to save low to his left, they never seriously threatened an answer as a jubilant Nou Camp celebrated a well deserved win.

Is Suarez finding his Liverpool form?

This was a very different Luis Suarez from the man who made his belated Barca debut on the right wing in October's 3-1 Clasico defeat at the Bernabeu.

Suarez is now firmly established as the team's centre forward and he delivered a man-of-the-match performance, scoring a superb winner which owed everything to a delightful first touch, and giving the Real back four a torrid night with his superb movement and relentless workrate.

Just a few weeks ago Barca boss Luis Enrique was forced to regularly defend the former Liverpool man after his career in Spain started with a notable lack of goals, but that has all changed ever since his brace against Manchester City in the Champions League.

Suarez has now scored seven goals in seven games since that triumphant night at the Etihad, and his performance in El Clasico, in which he again linked well with Lionel Messi and Neymar, confirms he is an integral part of the most devastating strike force in world football.

How did Gareth Bale play?

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale has faced media criticism over his recent Real Madrid form

Bale endured an ultimately disappointing evening, but it could have all been so different as his night turned on two key moments in quick succession at the end of the first half when the game was tied at 1-1.

Firstly, the Welshman had a goal contentiously ruled out for offside as he turned in a deep cross at the far post, with replays later showing that although he was onside, Cristiano Ronaldo was offside - just - when he flicked the ball on to Bale.

Then, after Ronaldo had a powerful effort tipped over the bar, a goalmouth scramble from the subsequent corner saw the ball drop at Bale's feet but he snatched at the chance and sent his right-footed shot wide - a glorious opportunity to give his team a half-time lead.

The second period was extremely disappointing for the former Tottenham man, who failed to make any impact as his team chased a leveller while he also - understandably, in the circumstances - lost the defensive rigour he had shown in the first half, and he finished with fewer touches than any other player who stayed on for the full 90 minutes.

Messi v Ronaldo - who won their personal duel?

When the two players almost unanimously regarded as the best in the world go head to head, direct comparisons are inevitable and the verdict on this occasion is that although Messi didn't score, he exerted a greater all-round impact than Ronaldo.

The Argentine delivered a perfect free-kick into the penalty box for Mathieu's headed opener and was the chief string-puller as his team ran riot in the second period, producing an especially delightful pass to create a late chance for Jordi Alba.

Despite hitting the bar, scoring and bursting into life for the final stages of the first half, Ronaldo endured a largely frustrating night and did nowhere near enough to assist his team's attempts to find a second-half leveller.

Stats show Messi had 77 touches of the ball compared to Ronaldo's 52, and that accurately reflects their overall influence on the game.

Is this Barca unrecognisable from Pep's Barca?

A couple of years ago, the suggestion Barca could win a Clasico at home by scoring with a header from a free-kick and a winner via a long ball over the middle of the opposition defence would have been heartily laughed away.

Under Pep Guardiola, Barca became the ultimate exponents of a short passing game which changed the way many teams played the game all over the world.

But those days are gone, tiki-taka is no more and new boss Luis Enrique is fashioning a much more direct team whose primary tactical ambition is getting the ball forward to their sensational front three as quickly and as often as possible.

Tellingly, Xavi - the man who orchestrated the team's greatest performances under Guardiola - was left on the bench and only appeared for the final 11 minutes, while his former chief passing partner Andres Iniesta was only a peripheral presence.

Does defeat put Ancelotti's job under threat?

Barca are now strong favourites for the La Liga title, establishing a four-point lead over their perennial rivals. Put simply, if they win nine of their last 10 games, they are champions.

For Real, the result and, even more so, the insipid nature of the team's submissive second-half performance will do nothing to ease the growing pressure on under-fire manager Carlo Ancelotti.

There have already been reports that club president Florentino Perez is losing patience with the Italian and, although he almost certainly will not be sacked in the immediate future, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see him at the Bernabeu next season.

Barcelona v Real Madrid
Jeremy Mathieu netted his first La Liga goal for Barcelona since arriving from Valencia last summer
Barcelona v Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo poked Madrid level - his seventh goal in his last eight visits to the Nou Camp
Luis Suarez - Barcelona v Real Madrid
Luis Suarez's matchwinner was his sixth goal in his last seven La Liga appearances

Line-ups

Barcelona

  • 13Bravo
  • 22Dani AlvesBooked at 71mins
  • 3Piqué
  • 24Mathieu
  • 18AlbaBooked at 37mins
  • 4RakiticSubstituted forBusquetsat 76'minutes
  • 14MascheranoBooked at 61mins
  • 8IniestaBooked at 65minsSubstituted forXaviat 80'minutes
  • 10Messi
  • 9L SuárezBooked at 28mins
  • 11NeymarSubstituted forRafinhaat 85'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1ter Stegen
  • 5Busquets
  • 6Xavi
  • 7Pedro
  • 12Rafinha
  • 15Bartra
  • 21Adriano

Real Madrid

  • 1Casillas
  • 15CarvajalBooked at 48mins
  • 3PepeBooked at 21minsSubstituted forVaraneat 73'minutes
  • 4RamosBooked at 45mins
  • 12Marcelo
  • 19ModricBooked at 52minsSubstituted forBorgesat 88'minutes
  • 8Kroos
  • 23IscoBooked at 64minsSubstituted forJeséat 80'minutes
  • 11Bale
  • 9Benzema
  • 7RonaldoBooked at 37mins

Substitutes

  • 2Varane
  • 13Navas
  • 14Hernández
  • 16Borges
  • 17Arbeloa
  • 20Jesé
  • 24Illarramendi
Referee:
Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
Attendance:
98,760

Match Stats

Home TeamBarcelonaAway TeamReal Madrid
Possession
Home52%
Away48%
Shots
Home17
Away13
Shots on Target
Home5
Away4
Corners
Home7
Away10
Fouls
Home9
Away14

Live Text

Match ends, Barcelona 2, Real Madrid 1.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Barcelona 2, Real Madrid 1.

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Dani Alves.

Substitution

Substitution, Real Madrid. Lucas Silva replaces Luka Modric.

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Gerard Piqué.

Attempt saved. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Jordi Alba.

Attempt missed. Luis Suárez (Barcelona) right footed shot from the left side of the box is too high following a corner.

Corner, Barcelona. Conceded by Iker Casillas.

Attempt saved. Jordi Alba (Barcelona) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Lionel Messi with a through ball.

Rafinha (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid).

Substitution

Substitution, Barcelona. Rafinha replaces Neymar.

Attempt missed. Luis Suárez (Barcelona) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Javier Mascherano.

Substitution

Substitution, Real Madrid. Jesé replaces Isco.

Substitution

Substitution, Barcelona. Xavi replaces Andrés Iniesta.

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Claudio Bravo.

Attempt saved. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Luka Modric.

Attempt blocked. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Neymar.

Substitution

Substitution, Barcelona. Sergio Busquets replaces Ivan Rakitic.

Offside, Barcelona. Andrés Iniesta tries a through ball, but Luis Suárez is caught offside.

Attempt missed. Neymar (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Lionel Messi.

Attempt missed. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Dani Alves.

Substitution

Substitution, Real Madrid. Raphael Varane replaces Pepe.

Neymar (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid).

Booking

Dani Alves (Barcelona) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Dani Alves (Barcelona).

Isco (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt blocked. Neymar (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Luis Suárez.

Foul by Jeremy Mathieu (Barcelona).

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Neymar (Barcelona) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Javier Mascherano following a fast break.

Foul by Dani Alves (Barcelona).

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Lionel Messi (Barcelona).

Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Booking

Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona).

Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Booking

Isco (Real Madrid) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

goal

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