LaLiga Matchweek 30 round-up: Real Madrid win El Clásico as Atlético de Madrid continue losing points
Epic Clasico goes Real Madrid's way (2-1)
Astrong first half punctuated by goals from Karim Benzema and Toni Kroospowered Real Madrid to a 2-1 victory over Barcelona in the latest installment of El Clasico on Saturday night at the Estadio Di Stefano.
With the victory, Real Madrid surge to the top of the table in LaLiga with the same amount of points as Atletico Madrid (66), who play on Sunday, while Barcelona sit third with 65 points.
Zinedine Zidane made just one change from the team that downed Liverpool in midweek, as Fede Valverde came in for Marco Asensio, meaning the Frenchman opted for a four-man midfield. Meanwhile, Ronald Koeman left Antoine Griezmann and Gerard Pique on the bench and instead went with Ronald Araujo at centre-back and a two-man attack with Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.
It was a typically energetic start to a El Clasico and Real Madrid used it to break the deadlock in the early going with a fantastic back-heeled finish from Benzema. An ill-advised Jordi Alba step allowed Fede Valverde to find a wide-open Lucas Vazquez on the right wing and the cross met the boot of Benzema, who kissed it into net with his heel for a 1-0 lead.
Real Madrid were controlling matters and were able to double their lead 2-0 via a Kroos freekick that was given when Vinicius was fouled just outside the area. The German's effort glanced off the back of Sergino Dest, who erred by turning his body away from the ball, and ricocheted into net off the attempted headed clearance of Jordi Alba for the goal.
Any time Real Madrid launched an attack, Barcelona seemed to be out-numbered and out of sorts and only the post and a masterful follow-up save from Ter Stegen prevented a third for Real Madrid, with Fede Vaverde denied by the woodwork and Lucas Vazquez stopped by Ter Stegen.
An injury to Lucas Vazquez produced the first substitution of the match, with Alvaro Odriozola coming on right before half time.
Barcelona mustered little in the way of attack during the first half until the final moments when Messi almost curled in a corner kick for an Olympic goal, but instead saw the ball smack the post and deflect out.
Heavy rain and wind greeted the teams coming out of the half time dressing room, as did a change for the visitors with Griezmann on for Dest.
Barcelona's commitment to numbers getting forward in hopes of pulling a goal back paid off right before the hour mark when Alba curled in a cross that was dummied by Griezmann and stabbed home by Oscar Mingueza to make it 2-1.
Zidane went right to his bench to try to restore the two-goal advantage, with Asensio summoned for Fede Valverde. But it was Vinicius who almost produced the goal with a cross that Araujo nearly deflected into his own net but was saved by the post.
Koeman then countered, with Sergi Roberto seeing his first action since January, coming on for Busquets.
It was heart-pounding stuff from the two sides, with Barcelona coming with everything to try to find an equaliser, which in turn allowed plenty of space forReal Madrid and Kroos should have made it three with a header, but missed badly and allowed for a Barcelona clearance.
Zidane's final changes saw Kroos, Benzema and Vinicius yield their spots to Isco, Mariano and Marcelo respectively, while Koeman swapped Ilaix for Araujo, followed later by Trincao and Martin Braithwaite on for Pedri and Dembele.
It would not be a Clasico without controversy and it duly delivered in the final minutes when Barcelona howled for a penalty after contact from Ferland Mendy on Braithwaite in the Real Madrid area, but referee Jesus Gil Manzano and VAR concluded that a spot kick was not warranted.
Two yellow cards on two different fouls in the span of a minute resulted in a sending off for Casemiro just minutes from full time, as Barcelona launched one final attack and they were a whisker from getting the tying goal through Ilaix, whose last-second shot rang off the crossbar, sealing the three points for Real Madrid.
2.- Real Madrid: Courtois; Lucas (Odriozola, min. 43), Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Casemiro, Valverde (Asensio, min. 61), Modric, Kroos (Isco, min. 72); Vinicius (Marcelo, min. 72), Benzema (Mariano, min. 72)
1.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest (Griezmann, min. 46), Araujo (Ilaix, min. 72), Lenglet, Mingueza, Alba; Busquets (Sergi Roberto, min. 64), Pedri (Trincao, min. 81), De Jong; Messi, Dembele (Braithwaite, min. 81).
Goals: 1-0, min. 14: Benzema; 2-0, min. 28: Kroos; 2-1, min. 60: Mingueza
Referee: Gil Manzano (Extremadura).
Yellow cards: Pedri (Min. 23) for Barcelona, Araujo (Min. 26) for Barcelona, Nacho (Min. 69) for Real Madrid, Jordi Alba (Min. 84) for Barcelona, Casemiro (Min. 89) for Real Madrid, Casemiro (Min. 90) for Real Madrid
Red cards: Casemiro (Min. 90) for Real Madrid
Stadium: Alfredo di Stenao
Atletico lose everything... Apart from the LaLiga Santander lead (1-1)
Atletico Madrid returned to the top of LaLiga Santander but dropped more points in their pursuit of the title with a 1-1 draw against Real Betis on Sunday night.
The visitors to the Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville took the lead early in the contest, with Yannick Carrasco remaining calm to slot into an unguarded net.
Former Barcelona forward Cristian Tello equaliser for Los Verdiblancos midway through the first half, volleying home Alex Moreno's cross with his right foot.
There was a blow for Atletico at the end of the first half when Joao Felix took one himself off a Betis player, picking up an injury that would force him off just after the restart.
Most of the chances to win the game fell Atletico's way in the closing stages. Angel Correa saw two attempts stopped by Claudio Bravo in the final minutes of the match.
There would be no winning goal, though, as Atletico went one point above Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga Santander. Barcelona are now two points further back in third place.
As for Betis, they stay sixth in the table, only behind Real Sociedad in fifth on goal difference.
Source: Marca / Arch Bell - Billy Munday
Photo credit: Real Madrid CF