Madrid, Oct 16 (IANS) Goals from Karim Benzema, Federico Valverde and Rodrygo ensured a dominating win for Real Madrid against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday for the first El Clasico of the season.
FC Barcelona have lost for the first time this La Liga season and at the place where defeat hurts the most, the Santiago Bernabeu.
Without ever utterly dominating, Real Madrid scored twice in the first half and looked on steady course to win what had been a largely uneventful 250th edition of the biggest game in club football.
But especially after Ansu Fati entered the fray late on, Barcelona found the kind of energy they had been lacking until then, pulling one goal back and seriously threatening to take at least a point out of the game.
All hopes of that happening were ended by what many might feel was a rather harsh penalty call right at the end.
The way the game ended did leave a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth, but the upshot of it all is that it’s Real Madrid who maintain an unbeaten record in la Liga, and move three points higher than Barca in the table.
By half-time things were looking bleak. The game was just 12 minutes old when Vinicius powered down the left. Ter Stegen blocked the shot, but the rebound fell straight to Karim Benzema and Barca had conceded for just the second time in this Liga campaign.
And they’d concede again after 35 minutes when Federico Valverde was perhaps given too much space to think in before rifling home an unstoppable strike from the edge of the area.
It was all the more frustrating because between the goals, it was Barca who had been playing the best football, and would have been level had Lewandowski connected better with a wonderful close-range opportunity that went sailing over the bar.
As the game advanced, Barca were struggling to make Madrid’s lead look uncomfortable. But although Benzema did find the net for the second time, only for that one to call for offside, the home side rarely looked like extending their lead.
However, the closest Barca had come to a goal of their own was a rejected claim for a penalty on Lewandowski before Ansu Fati made a huge impact after coming on as a sub.
Moments after shooting inches wide, the youngster delivered the killer pass for Ferran Torres to pull one back for FC Barcelona.
From doom and gloom it was suddenly game on! When Ansu turned another shot just wide, the mood in the Bernabeu had shifted from calm complacency to extreme concern.
The chance of a fairy tale ending faded under controversial circumstances when Madrid were awarded a last minute penalty. The theory is that Eric Garcia trod on Rodrygo’s foot. There is going to be much discussion about the correctness of that decision.
Rodrygo himself took the kick, and converted. It was an infuriating end to a frustrating afternoon and Barca are heading back to Catalonia empty-handed.