Barça players mob Luis Suárez after his second-half goal versus Real Madrid. / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Sunday night’s Clásico was no disappointment. Both sides served up a veritable footballing feast, and although Real Madrid looked the better side for a large part of the first half, Barça found their A-game after the break and on the back of a fantastic goal from Luis Suárez, marched on to claim three points and take a giant’s step closer to the Liga title.

As expected, the game got off to a furious pace, with Andrés Iniesta for Barça and Karim Benzema for Real Madrid coming close before Cristiano Ronaldo hit a Benzema cross onto the Barça crossbar. Isco and Ramos had further chances for the visitors before Leo Messi headed a Neymar centre wide from 12 metres.

Mathieu heads home

A goal was surely on the way and indeed it came. In the 19th miunute, Messi delivered an impeccable free kick, and Jeremy Mathieu beat Sergio Ramos to produce a terrific header that Iker Casillas had no chance of saving. Barça led 1-0 and things were off to the perfect start.

Ronaldo levels

The fascinating end-to-end battle continued with a great chance fumbled by Neymar on the half hour before Madrid pulled level. Benzema cheekily back-heeled the ball in the Barcelona area and Cristiano Ronaldo was there to slam home the equaliser.

The goal knocked the wind out of Barça and the remaining fifteen minutes of the half saw Madrid dominating the midfield and creating a number of opportunities to take the lead. Gareth Bale actually found the net, but the assist from Ronaldo was ruled out for offside. Then, a long-range strike from Ronaldo was tipped over the bar by Claudio Bravo and Bale failed to convert a corner from just a few metres out. The half-time whistle couldn’t have come at a better time. Barça needed to regroup and get themselves back into the match.

Suárez magic

But it was Madrid who continued to dominate after the break, with Benzema very nearly scoring from point-blank range before Bravo threw himself in the way. But just when Barça were struggling the most, they conjured a goal out of nothing. After 55 minutes, a long ball from Dani Alves was controlled magnificently by Suárez, who beat Casillas to top a stellar performance with one of the finest goals ever seen in a Clásico.

Neymar had had a quiet game, but he burst into action after 67 minutes with a dazzling solo run that he only just failed to finish off. This was the Barça that Camp Nou’s highest attendance of the season had come to see! They finally had control of the midfield, and on a series of chances, a strike from Messi on the edge of the area and another that Neymar hit into the side-netting were the closest as the game headed for the final quarter of an hour.

Barça on top

Barça midfielder Ivan Rakitic left to a standing ovation and there was a huge roar to welcome Sergio Busquets back from injury – and although a fine strike from Benzema brought out the very best in Bravo, most of the action continued to be in the Real Madrid half.

Madrid had run out of ideas and the Catalans were now totally in command. Suárez shot wide with just seven minutes to go and then Casillas denied both Jordi Alba and Messi with excellent saves. The final minutes ticked away with Barça confidently maintaining their lead to make sure of three huge points from a memorable night at the Camp Nou


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