Barcelona: Cristiano Ronaldo struck the winner as 10-man Real Madrid came from behind to end Barcelona’s 39-game unbeaten run 2-1 in El Clasico at the Camp Nou yesterday.
Gerard Pique’s towering header put the hosts in front on the night they honoured legendary former player and coach Johan Cruyff. Yet, Karim Benzema quickly levelled before Ronaldo fired home five minutes from time after Madrid captain Sergio Ramos had seen the 21st red card of his career.
Victory reduces Barca’s lead over third-placed Madrid to seven points with seven games remaining, but Atletico Madrid closed the gap on the leaders to six points with a 5-1 thrashing of Real Betis earlier yesterday.
There was an emotive homage to Cruyff before kick-off with over 90,000 fans holding up a display reading “Thank you Johan” alongside a Barca jersey with the number 14 the Dutch great adorned during his playing career.
Once the action got underway, Barca started by far the better and only an incredible miss by Luis Suarez let Madrid off the hook on 10 minutes.
Neymar unselfishly squared for his Uruguayan strike partner, but Suarez failed to make any connection from his low cross with the goal at his mercy.
Keylor Navas was then forced to make a smart save from Ivan Rakitic as Madrid struggled to contain wave upon wave of Barca attack.
The hosts were enraged midway through the half when Lionel Messi looked to have been brought down by Ramos right on the edge of the area, but referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez waived play on with Ramos already having been booked.
Madrid grew into the game as the first-half progressed and finally threatened the Barca goal when Ronaldo’s shot was beaten away by Claudio Bravo before Gareth Bale blazed a volley over from a narrow angle.