Barcelona dealt what could be a fatal blow in the race for LaLiga title with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid in El Clasico at the Camp Nou.
The Catalan side stormed out the gate, forcing Thibaut Courtois to make a couple of saves to keep the game scoreless.
However, it would be Real Madrid who struck first.
In one of the early battles between Vinicius Jr. and Ronald Araújo, the latter decided to shift toward the middle, leaving Sergio Busquets to mark him. The Brazilian got to the byline and lifted what appeared to be a straightforward cross. As Marc-Andre ter Stegen took a step to measure the ball, it took a deflection off the head of Araújo, passing slowly behind the falling German goalkeeper.
The goal took some of the air out of the Camp Nou and the team. Their attacks weren’t as crisp and as the half progressed, the plan turned to sending in crosses and hoping either Robert Lewandwoski or one of the center-backs could connect.
The equalizer came at a perfect time for Barcelona.
After a series of ping-pong inside the box, the ball landed to Sergi Roberto who placed it past the outstretched arms of Courtois.
Now invigorated, Barcelona looked a bit like the team from the opening minutes when they came out of the break. However, they were unable to create any real goal scoring opportunities, limited to half chances. They were also making some sloppy mistakes in passing that resulted in dangerous occasions for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid thought they took the lead heading into the final ten minutes of the game. Marco Asensio tapped in a ball with his teammates mobbing him near the corner flag. Their jubilation would be short-lived, however, as he was deemed offside following a VAR review.
A fortunate break for Barcelona.
A break they took advantage of during stoppage time.
Lewandowski received the ball on the left and looked to cut inside. Dani Carvajal tracked him but the striker, with a deft back heel, found the overlapping Alejandro Balde. Balde then cut the ball back inside, finding Franck Kessié who guided the ball into the back of the net, sending the Camp Nou into pandemonium.
Both players and those in attendance erupted once the final whistle blew, knowing what the win meant. Barcelona are now 12 points in front of Real Madrid, all but sentencing the league title race.
It was the Catalans’ first win at home in El Clasico since 2018. It also marked the third consecutive win against Real Madrid, something not done since Pep Guardiola was manager — a Guardiola who happened to be in attendance.
Again, the win all but put the title race to bed heading into an international break. Real Madrid now need Barcelona to lose at least four times, which is not entirely out of the question. However, it would mean Madrid would need to win all their remaining games, something that looks improbable given their form in LaLiga.