Madrid, Oct 16 (EFE).- Real Madrid displayed the credentials of a reigning champion on Sunday, dominating its 3-1 “El Clasico” matchup with Barcelona right from the start and moving to the top of the La Liga table, although the Catalan squad did briefly – but too late in the day – move up from trailing 2-0 to set itself up with the potential springboard for a draw.
Carlo Ancelotti’s boys now have five wins in their last seven classic matchups with their longstanding rivals, losing just once last March – a 4-0 drubbing – when they just didn’t mount their usual intensity.
It was a painful loss for Xavi Hernandez’s men, however, with the squad finding itself a victim of a staunch defense that was working well from the opening whistle before 62,876 spectators at Santiago Bernabeu stadium and after last week’s Champions League disaster – a draw with Inter Milan – that put them on the brink of elimination in that competition.
Vinicius Jr. was in fine and energetic form on the left wing, with Barcelona unable to find a solution to that dilemma, and both he and Toni Kroos set up the team’s first two tallies with great passes.
Karim Benzema scored just 12 minutes into play, firing into an empty net after Marc-Andre ter Stegen fended off a close-range shot by Vinicius.
Although Frenkie de Jong and Raphinha got off two good shots for the visitors in the early going, Barcelona looked rather lackluster throughout much of the match.
Real’s second goal came when Vinicius capitalized on an error by Barca’s Eric Garcia to get in close to the area, thus creating enough room for Valverde – who was not being covered by anyone but hovering at the edge of the box – to send a powerful blast right past Ter Stegen.
Matters stood at 2-0 until the 83rd minute, when Ferran Torres, in off the bench for Raphinha, managed to send the ball into an empty Real net for the 2-1 after a nice crossing shot from Robert Lewandowski.
Then, in stoppage time, Rodrygo – having replaced Vinicius in the 85th minute – put the game away after being tripped in the area by Garcia, a foul not initially noted by the referee but confirmed on VAR review, whereupon he sank the penalty kick.
Although Thibaut Courtois was out, replaced in the Real net by Lunin, Barcelona was not able to take advantage of that potential opportunity.
The win puts the capital squad at the summit of the La Liga table with 25 points, three in front of the Catalans.
Real Madrid: Lunin; Carvajal (Carvajal, m.88) , Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Tchouameni, Kroos, Modric (Camavinga, m.78); Fede Valverde, Vinicius (Rodrygo, m.85) and Benzema (Marco Asensio, m.88).
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Kounde, Eric Garcia, Balde (Jordi Alba, m.60); Pedri (Kessie, m.83), Busquets (Gavi, m.60), De Jong; Raphinha (Ferran Torres, m.60), Dembele (Ansu Fati, m.73) and Lewandowski.