A 71st minute goal from Vinicuis Jr and a goal from substitute Mariano Diaz with the last kick of the game took Real Madrid back to the top of the Primera Liga with a 2-0 win at home to FC Barcelona in the ‘Clasico’ in the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night.
The win was a just reward for a Madrid side, who were kept in the game by two big saves from Thibaut Courtois in the first half, but who were clearly superior to their rivals in a second half which saw Barca appear to run out of energy and ideas.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane brought Marcelo back at left back, while Tony Kroos returned in midfield for Luka Modric, while Jordi Alba was a surprise inclusion for a Barcelona team that again resorted to a 4-4-2 formation after just two days training.
Madrid started stronger than Barca, looking to pressure their rivals highest up the field and with Vinicius Jr a threat down their left flank, although the Brazilian’s efforts were usually spoiled by a wasteful final ball.
Barca had the first chance in an entertaining half as Antoine Griezmann fired over after a move involving Messi and Alba, who was shown a yellow card along with Madrid’s Dani Carvajal after the pair squared up on the pitch.
The Barca defender was slightly lucky to stay on the pitch after then halting a Fede Velverde attack for Madrid with an obstruction, but referee Mateu Lahoz waved away appeals for a foul.
As Madrid eased their pressure with the passing minutes Barca found more space in attack and the home side had keeper Thibaut Courtois to thank for saving one on one from Arthur Melo, who ran 40 yards to end clean through on goal in the 34th minute.
Four minutes later he was at full stretch to deny Messi, who latched onto a ball from Sergio Busquets to keep the score 0-0 at the break.
After five minutes in the second half in which it looked as if the script was not going to change, Real Madrid upped the pace and the pressure and began to asphyxiate Barca in their own half.
Fruit of that pressure saw a curling shot from Isco brilliantly tipped away by Ter Stegen, who then denied the midfielder’s goal bound header, before Karim Benzema fired wide after an Isco pass.
Martin Braithwaite replaced Arturo Vidal for Barca and almost scored with his first touch in the 70th minute, but again Courtois made an important stop.
Madrid took the lead a minute later after Vinicius timed his run onto Kroos’ calm through ball. The Barca defense gave him space to advance into the area, but his shot probably wouldn’t have gone in but for a deflection off Pique which took it past Ter Stegen and in at the near post.
The game became and end-to-end affair, but with Madrid always looking more likely to add a second that Barca were to equalize and the second goal game in injury time when substitute Mariano Diaz scored from a narrow angle just seconds after coming on as substitute.
While Real Madrid celebrate returning to the top of the table, Setien will now have to ask how his side were so easily dominated in the second half. Enditem