There aren’t too many games that Barcelona head into as underdogs. Following on from Champions League elimination in midweek, many expected them to surrender at the hands of the all powerful league leaders at the Santiago Bernabeu. They did exactly the opposite of what proved to be one of the most entertaining Clasicos of recent years.
In a huge fixture which rarely fails to live up to expectations, it was Casemiro who surprised the crowds by opening the scoring as he pounced at the far post to stab the ball home and give Real Madrid the lead after dominating the first half an hour.
It took just five minutes for Barcelona, or at least Lionel Messi, to react as the Argentinean cut through crowds of Madrid players leaving the likes of Dani Carvajal dazed and confused as he turned to see the Barcelona number 10 slot the ball past Keylor Navas.
There was a 40 minute wait for the next goal but it came in style as Ivan Rakitic gave the Catalans the lead on the day of their patron saint, Saint George, with a thunderbolt of a strike from the edge of the area to put Barcelona into the driving seat of the game for the first time after they had taken the fixture by the scruff of the neck and had the better chances.
Five minutes later the frustration boiled over, Sergio Ramos needlessly seeing red as he dived into a dangerous tackle on Messi on the halfway line. The Spaniard has now received five red cards in Clasicos, more than any other player, but he wasn’t happy, blaming Gerard Pique as he made his way off the pitch.
Out of nowhere though, James Rodriguez emerged in the 85th minute to break through the barricades and make a superb run to connect with a Marcelo cross to draw his side level with just five minutes left on the clock.
Barcelona needed those, and the two added minutes, to find a way back into the lead, and a superb team move saw a remarkable run from Sergi Roberto, a wonderful pass from Gerard Pique and a perfect lay-off from Jordi Alba combine to present Lionel Messi with the opportunity to give his side the win and he duly obliged.
Read on over the next few pages to see what we learnt from the game…