BARCELONA • Real Madrid averted a crisis in the best possible way yesterday by beating Barcelona 3-1 in the first empty Clasico and landing an early blow in La Liga’s title race.
Barca had the chance to inflict a third consecutive defeat in all competitions on their rivals and increase the pressure on Real coach Zinedine Zidane.
Instead, Real’s away win earns them a six-point lead over the Catalans (seven) in the table, albeit having played one game more.
“It wasn’t an easy week for us,” said Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after the match at the Nou Camp. “We played games very quickly after coming back from the international break and we weren’t at our best against Cadiz (1-0 loss) and Shakhtar (3-2 defeat).
“We wanted to play well here today and we’re very happy with the result in this big game. We did what the the manager wanted us to do.
“They’re a very strong team. Jordi Alba was influential down the left-hand side and that’s where their goal came from. I had to make some saves and so did Neto.
“We scored the penalty in the second half and, from there, we could have scored the third a bit earlier but for Neto.”
Real captain Sergio Ramos once again proved to be the man for the big occasion as he converted a fiercely debated penalty.
The Spaniard, making a record 45th appearance in the Clasico, was awarded the spot kick following a VAR (video assistant referee) review, after falling in the area when his shirt was tugged by Clement Lenglet during a corner.
The defender showed his customary calm to score from the spot in the 63rd minute and restore the champions’ lead. Federico Valverde had opened the scoring in the fifth minute, only for Barca forward Ansu Fati, 17, to equalise less than three minutes later.
Barca ran out of steam in the second half and Real missed two big chances to seal the points after Ramos’ penalty, before substitute Luka Modric finally clinched it with a goal in added time.
- SPANISH LA LIGA
Real Madrid 3
Barca’s American defender Sergino Dest lamented that his side were not clinical enough, adding: “Both sides had chances. Maybe they were sharper with theirs and we missed a few chances to score.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS