Barcelona: Real Madrid averted a crisis in the best possible way on Saturday by beating Barcelona 3-1 in the first empty Clasico, landing an early blow in La Liga’s title race.
Barca had the chance to inflict a third consecutive defeat on their rivals and increase the pressure on Zinedine Zidane. Instead, Madrid’s win earns them a six-point lead over the Catalans, having played one game more.
Sergio Ramos’ penalty and a late Luka Modric goal finished Barcelona off after Federico Valverde and Ansu Fati had traded early strikes in a frantic game that defied those expecting further evidence of two heavyweights in decline.Barcelona might feel hard done by, especially as Ramos’ penalty was awarded after a check by VAR and a hugely exaggerated fall by Madrid’s captain after Clement Lenglet tugged his shirt.
But aside from an impressive spell in the first half, when Lionel Messi threatened to win the game on his own, Madrid were dominant for longer spells and pulled away when it mattered.
This was Ronald Koeman’s first Clasico as Barcelona coach and some of the pressure Zidane would have felt from a loss is now transferred to the Dutchman, who has overseen only three wins from his first six games in charge.
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