Barcelona won their second Clasico in four days with a 1-0 victory over Real Madrid to move ten points clear in La Liga. After knocking them out of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, Barca returned to the Santiago Bernabeu for another victory that surely eliminates their greatest rivals from the title race.
Lionel Messi, who locked heads with Sergio Ramos before the interval after being caught in the face with a flailing arm, would have been proud of Ivan Rakitic’s delightful chip, that proved enough to settle the Clasico.
The onus was on Madrid, not only to make amends for their defeat in midweek but to reduce the nine-point gap between them and La Liga’s leaders.
Instead, Barca extended it to 12 and the way the players jumped up and down in front of the away fans after the final whistle suggested they felt this was a major hurdle overcome.
Madrid made the early impetus with Gareth Bale sending a free-kick wide and Karim Benzema mishitting Sergio Reguillon’s cutback.
But Barca, driven on by Messi, took control. Messi skipped through three players in midfield and was furious with Ousmane Dembele when he missed his late run into the box.
Messi then weaved in behind with the help of a Luis Suarez touch but, to everyone’s surprise, the trademark lifted finish floated wide.
Rakitic proved more adept at it moments later as he played the ball wide to Sergi Roberto, continued his run behind Ramos and received it back, before feathering a delightful chip over Thibaut Courtois.
Madrid pushed for an equaliser but their desperation showed in a lack of composure up front. Benzema failed to connect while Vinicius’ rushed shot was blocked.
Bale departed to whistles just after the hour, replaced by Marco Asensio, and Dembele should have finished it soon after. Messi sent him clear but the shot flashed wide of the far post.
Madrid huffed and puffed, but Raphael Varane’s weak header – easily gathered by Marc Andre ter Stegen – was their best effort as Barcelona celebrate again.