Real Madrid produced a stirring fight-back to beat Barcelona at the Bernabeu, and in the process they inflicted Luis Enrique with his first defeat as the Catalan side’s manager.
Madrid’s supporters created a ferocious atmosphere inside the stadium before the contest, but it was Barcelona who surged into an early lead. Luis Suarez, who was making his first start since being banned during the World Cup for his bite on Italian defender, Giorgio Chiellini, was heavily involved in the goal too. He played a delightful cross-field pass to his teammate, Neymar, who took the ball down on his chest wonderfully, cut inside, and then curled a shot past Iker Casillas with aplomb.
Madrid were shell-shocked by their opponent’s fast-paced opening, and it took them a couple of minutes to compose themselves before they started to force their way back into the encounter.
However, Carlo Ancelotti’s team slowly started to etch their way into contention. They had a great chance 10 minutes after Neymar’s goal too, when Karim Benzema headed a Cristiano Ronaldo cross against the bar and then watched as his rebound went agonizingly wide. Soon after, Lionel Messi had his own superb opening to extend Barcelona’s lead, but he somehow hit his shot wide from just four yards out.
The Argentinian superstar was made to regret his miss too. After 35 minutes, Ronaldo was given a chance to restore parity when Gerard Pique hand-balled Marcelo’s cross. There wasn’t any doubt that the Portuguese forward would equalize for the Spanish giants, and he easily stroked the ball past Claudio Bravo. This was the first goal that Barcelona had conceded in 815 minutes of La Liga football this season. Plus, it continued Ronaldo’s streak of scoring in every home game since September 2013.
James Rodriguez missed a simple header just before half-time, but 16 minutes after the restart, Madrid found themselves three goals to one up. First of all, Pepe powered home a bullet header from Toni Kroos’ corner, before Karim Benzema added another just over 10 minutes later, when Andres Iniesta’s haphazard pass fell to Isco’s feet. James Rodriguez eventually fed Karim Benzema in on goal, and the French forward delightfully placed the ball into the back of the net to give Madrid an unassailable lead.
Barcelona were unable to really generate a response to falling behind, and the rest of the game ended in a precession-like manner. Madrid now sit just a point behind Barcelona in the league table. And even though there is still a long way to go until the league title is decided, this victory will give them a huge psychological advantage as the season progresses.
[Image via Marca]