MADRID (AP) – Real Madrid won the first “Clasico” of the season to lead the Spanish league and deliver another crushing blow to Barcelona, three days after the Catalan club’s hopes of advancing to the Champions League all but ended.
Karim Benzema and Federico Valverde scored in the first half, and Rodrigo added another in the second half, as the defending champions won 3-1 on Sunday to move three points clear of Barcelona. The match entered the game tied on points, with Barcelona ahead on goal difference.
It was Madrid’s sixth win in the last seven “clásicos”, although it was shy of the 4-0 defeat the teams met at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium last season.
Sunday’s defeat was another crushing blow for Barcelona after they were held 3-3 at home by Inter Milan on Wednesday, effectively leaving the group stage of the Champions League with two rounds to spare.
Barcelona didn’t reach the knockout stages last season, their first without Lionel Messi, but elimination this time around will be more disappointing as the club look to strengthen their squad with the likes of Roberto Lewandowski and Rafinha. Worked on expenses.
Lewandowski, the league’s leading goalscorer, squandered his biggest chance of the first half, missing high near the goal line.
Madrid took advantage of Barcelona’s defensive struggles and Benzema scored from inside the area in the 12th minute after goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a save in a one-on-one situation with Vincenzo Jr. Started the goal. It was Benzema’s first goal in six games. He also had a goal disallowed for offside in the second half.
Valverde added to the lead with a low shot from outside the area in the 35th, with Ferran Torres getting a goal for the visitors in the 83rd.
Substitute Rodrigo sealed Madrid’s victory by converting a penalty kick in stoppage time.
Madrid were still without injured goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, while Barcelona lost a handful of players to injuries, and coach Xavi Hernandez had to promote Jules Conde as a centre-back.
Real Sociedad beat Celta Vigo 2-1 for their seventh straight win in all competitions.
Asir Alaramandi and Igor Zobeldia scored a goal in each half for Sociedad, who moved into fourth place.
Midtable Celta, who scored in the first half with veteran striker Ego Aspas, have lost four of their last five games.
Later Sunday, Espanyol host Valladolid and Almeria visit Real Betis.