Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona: Lionel Messi-inspired Barca go top after El Clasico win
A Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona threw La Liga’s title race wide open by beating Real Madrid 3-1 at the Bernabéu last night.
Madrid seemed on the way to a decisive six-point gap at the top of the table when Karim Benzema scored inside the first minute, but Barca roared back with goals from Alexis Sanchéz, Xavi Hernández and Cesc Fábregas.
Cristiano Ronaldo missed two golden chances at vital moments, but Barca, with Messi outstanding, were by far the better side.
Mourinho included German playmaker Mesut Özil, and more startlingly chose Fabío Coentrão over Sami Khedira. Guardiola re-united Carlés Puyol and Gerard Piqué at centre-half and started both summer signings Cesc Fábregas and Alexis Sanchéz.
Mourinho had hinted Madrid would pressurise their opponents high up the pitch, but even he could not have imagined the plan would work so well so early.
Barca keeper Víctor Valdés gave the ball straight to Ángel Di María, Özil’s shot was blocked and Benzema volleyed in from close range. Only 24 seconds had elapsed.
Messi had a chance to equalise soon after when he robbed Sergio Ramos and broke free, but Iker Casillas brilliantly pushed his shot around the post.
However, with Madrid keeping up the pressure and squeezing space with a very high defensive line, Barca initially struggled for rhythm. Andrés Iniesta and Messi tried to prise a way through Madrid’s very high defensive line, but Pepe and Lassana Diarra were sealing any gaps.
Cristiano Ronaldo then had a great opportunity to double Madrid’s lead. Benzema’s clever reverse ball left the Portuguese in space just inside the area, but his first time curler flew well wide.
Just before the half-hour Messi decided something had to be done. Carrying the ball from deep in midfield, he drew defenders towards him before releasing Alexis who ran on and shot low across Casillas into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Back on level terms Barcelona were now dominating possession and territory. Madrid’s fans turned their ire on referee David Fernández Borbalán, but the only first half yellow went to Alonso fouling Messi near half-way.
Madrid pressed very high again after the break, and forced two free kicks. Ronaldo could not capitalise though and Barca were soon ahead, thanks to a large slice of luck. Xavi’s long range shot seemed easy for Casillas, but it hit Marcelo and spun in off the post.
Madrid now had to attack and Mourinho brought on Kaká and Khedira for Ozil and Lass. Ronaldo - who was having a stinker - then had a free header just eight yards out but directed it well wide.
And just as in the first-half, it proved costly. Messi released Alves wide on the right and the Brazilian’s perfect cross met by a diving Cesc at the far post for a 3-1 victory.