Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-1: Late Ronaldo strike gives Zidane first El Clasico win
Real Madrid produced a dramatic second half comeback to beat Barcelona 2-1, reducing the gap at the top of La Liga to seven points after an all-action El Clasico on Saturday evening.
The 172nd league meeting between Spanish football’s most prestigious pair looked destined to end in a hard fought draw after Karim Benzema’s acrobatic volley just after the hour canceled out Gerard Pique’s headed opener for Barcelona.
However, Cristiano Ronaldo settled the match with a low strike past Keylor Navas with just five minutes of the ninety remaining.
Real will feel as though justice was served after Gareth Bale had a goal disallowed moments before for what the referee deemed a foul on Jordi Alba. The Welsh winger beat the Barca defender to head in at the near post, but was ruled to have pushed Alba in the process.
Los Blancos were reduced to ten men when Sergio Ramos was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Luis Suarez moments after the contentious disallowed goal. Ronaldo settled the tie with his 29th league goal of the season.
The win moves Real to within seven points of Barca at the top of La Liga, but with just seven games remaining and considering the all too regular gulf in class in the Spanish top flight, many have already proclaimed the Catalan side the champions elect.
Nevertheless, this was a huge win for Real Madrid, regardless of what it means in terms of the league table. The last meeting between the two sides saw Luis Enrique’s Barca triumph 4-0 at the Bernabeu in what was one of the final nails in the coffin of former manager Rafa Benitez.
Five months on and it was Zinedine Zidane’s turn to take to the touchline in club football’s most revered league series, his first El Clasico as Real Madrid manager, and the win will go a long way to silencing those doubting his credentials. The former France captain has seen his side win their last six games, scoring twenty goals in the process. The way Real went at Barcelona in the last 15 minutes, despite being reduced to 10 men, will give fans around the world renewed belief of a trophy-laden close season.
The club have a Champions League quarter final against German side Wolfsburg to look forward to this month, and while the La Liga title remains a mathematical possibility, Zidane will expect the same level of commitment and desire as he saw on Saturday evening at the Nou Camp, with the win sure to live long in the memories of players and fans alike.