Luis Suarez made his Clasico debut with a goal that proved enough for Barcelona to win 2-1 against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou and make it a four point lead at the top of la liga standings.
In a pulsating first half, Real Madrid were the dominant of the two sides and in a complete reverse, Barcelona controlled the play and the energy in the second.
Real Madrid were quick off the block in the first period despite the usual sound of jeers ringing an almost full Camp Nou. Early on, Marcelo played Karim Benzema on and the Frenchman had little bit of space to take a shot but instead he pulled the back on to his right foot and found Cristiano Ronaldo at the far post who kept a volley down but not enough to hit the crossbar and out for the chance to go begging. Claudio Bravo was completely beaten at this moment and would have been picking the ball from the back of the net had it been centimetres downward.
However, Barcelona were the ones to take the lead against the run of play. After winning a free kick in the 19th minute, Lionel Messi and Neymar consulted over who should take it with the Argentine whipping it in into the box and an unlikely source in Jeremy Mathieu popped up ahead of Sergio Ramos to head it downwards and beyond Iker Casillas into the goal.
Madrid made the intensity of the midfield count in the 31st minute after Neymar missed a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 for the home side. Quick off the blocks after Casillas’ s throw, Gareth Bale passed the ball to Toni Kroos and the German teed it up for Benzema. The Frenchman aware of his teammates whereabouts, back-heeled it for an on-rushing Ronaldo and the Portuguese side footed it past Claudio Bravo despite a challenge coming in from Dani Alves.
A few minutes later, Real Madrid could have made it 2-1 but for a very close but very correct offside decision. From a corner, Cristiano was adjudged to be offside despite being borderline with Ivan Rakitic. Cristiano’s head-on was set up on a platter for Bale and the Welshman had scored from it but for it not to stand and the celebrations to be halted.
Two minutes before the break, the same two players were involved in chances yet again. Ronaldo from 25 yards out stung Bravo’s fingers to produce a save and win a corner. From the resultant corner, Bale had a superb chance to get his third goal in two games but his toe poke went wide. His frustration was visible as he mouthed a four letter profanity to himself.
At the break, the two sides were all even but Real Madrid were the ones with the upper hand as their midfield was in command and that of Barcelona was virtually absent. Neymar and Suarez were more or less off colour and missing.
That tide turned in the second half as Barcelona got more command of the game and Real Madrid lost the intensity and the energy that they had created. The players looked winded and tired after the effort put in in the first 45 minutes.
Up until the 57th minute, Real Madrid carried on somehow as simulation, yellow cards and play acting continued. And that is when the game turned. Dani Alves won a ball deep into his own half and played it long towards the former Liverpool player who got between Pepe and Sergio Ramos to control the ball beautifully and shoot it past Iker Casillas.
That all but drew the curtains on the game as far as Real Madrid were concerned. It was as if it was the final nail in the coffin even with 30 minutes left to play. As time trickled on, Barcelona’s chances grew and as did their misses. Neymar was in position to score on two instances but missed and Suarez could have added to his tally to but he too shot wide.
When the Barcelona players did get shots on target from Jordi Alba and Messi, Casillas was on hand to deny them and keep some hope for the Whites.
But as Mathieu Lahoz blew the final whistle, that hope vanished and yet another Clasico finished with neither sides claiming a clean sheet - something that hasn’t happened in the last 18 clasicos now.