Real Madrid rebound with win over Barça

Barcelona, Oct 24 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid, who came into Saturday’s Clasico at Camp Nou after successive losses to non-elite sides, left with 3 points and possession of the top spot in LaLiga after beating Barcelona here for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.

Dubbed the Silent Clasico for the absence of spectators due to Covid-19, this latest installment of the most storied rivalry in club soccer featured the reigning LaLiga champions against a Blaugrana squad that ended the last campaign with no trophies.

After going undefeated in their first three domestic contests under new coach Ronald Koeman, Barça fell 1-0 last week to Getafe, though they went on to clobber Ferencvaros 5-1 in mid-week Champions League action.

The Blancos, meanwhile, followed a 1-0 LaLiga loss to promoted Cadiz with a 3-2 Champions League defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk.

Koeman, a key player for the Barcelona team that won LaLiga four years in a row in the early 1990s, signaled a bold approach to his first Clasico as a coach with a starting 11 that included Pedri and Sergiño Dest – both 19 – and Ansu Fati, who will turn 18 in a week.

The Dutchman left Antoine Griezmann on the bench and put Philippe Coutinho out alongside Pedri and Lionel Messi.

The only notable change for Real Madrid was Fede Valverde in midfield for Luka Modric and the Uruguayan wasted no time in repaying Zinedine Zidane for his confidence in him.

Valverde gave Real Madrid a 1-0 lead in the 5th minute with a massive assist from Karim Benzema.

The advantage lasted only three minutes, as Messi connected with Jordi Alba and the defender got the ball to Fati, who blew past Sergio Ramos before delivering a shot that left Thibaut Courtois no chance to make it 1-1.

Courtois denied Messi on a chance to put the hosts ahead. At the other end of the pitch, Neto, playing for the injured Marc-Andre ter Stegen, was able to ward off a threat from Benzema.

Barcelona were much better to start the second half.

Fati fired just wide in the 52nd minute and two minutes later, his cross found Coutinho alone in front of Courtois, but the Brazilian failed to seize the opportunity.

The initiative was with Barça until just after the hour mark, when a tussle in the area between Ramos and Blaugrana defender Clement Lenglet caught the attention of VAR.

The replay showed that Lenglet grabbed Ramos’ shirt and though the Frenchman said that the Spaniard shoved him moments earlier, the referee awarded a penalty.

Ramos converted to give the visitors a 2-1 edge in the 63rd minute and Barcelona proved unable to respond.

Real Madrid took advantage of the home side’s disarray and it was only some heroics by Neto – three outstanding stops in the 86th minute – that kept Barça in the contest before late sub Modric scored in the final minute of regulation. EFE fa/dr

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