Barcelona, April 3 (IANS) Second-half goals from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid come back from a goal down to beat FC Barcelona 2-1 in a Clasico La Liga derby match here at the Camp Nou stadium.
Gerard Pique put Barcelona ahead on Saturday, but on the day set aside to pay homage to club legend Johan Cruyff, the Catalan’s produced one of their worst displays of the season as their key players looked tired after the international break, reports Xinhua news agency.
The players took to the pitch to the sight of a spectacular mosaic commemorating the memory of former Barca legend Cruyff and the game kicked off after a minute’s silence to the man who died nine days ago.
Perhaps after so much emotion, which was heightened still further by a minute’s applause in the 14th minute, it was always going to be difficult for the Barcelona players to produce their best football and that was the case.
Although Luis Suarez incredibly missed an open goal after 10 minutes and Ivan Rakitic saw a shot parried by Keylor Navas 10 minutes later, Barcelona found it hard to break down a Real Madrid side sitting deep in their half and looking for Gareth Bale to use his pace on the break.
As the half progressed Madrid pushed their lines forward and Bale was unlucky to be denied by a good save by Claudio Bravo while his pace caused Jordi Alba constant problems down the Real Madrid right.
The second half began with Sergio Ramos, who had been booked in the first half, lucky to stay on the pitch after elbowing Dani Alves in an off the ball incident which deserved a direct red.
Pique opened the scoring for Barcelona in the 56th minute with a powerful header from a corner. The central defender was able to shake Pepe, who had been marking him, with the help of Suarez, whose clever movement blocked the defender.
Madrid were equal in the 63rd minute as Marcelo was allowed too much space to advance. He threaded the ball to Tony Kroos, whose deflected shot was acrobatically finished by Karim Benzema’s scissor kick.
Barcelona were looking flat while Madrid were now looking comfortable and finding space when they won the ball as Ronaldo showed with a run at the heart of the Barcelona defence with 10 minutes remaining.
Moments later Bale headed the ball into the net, but the referee Hernandez ruled the goal out for a supposed push, although the decision looked very harsh.
Ronaldo then hit the top of the bar with a curling shot, before Ramos was finally sent off for a wild lunge at Suarez with six minutes remaining.
It didn’t matter as moments later Ronaldo put Madrid ahead following a Bale cross which he controlled on his chest before beating Claudio Bravo from a narrow-angle.
Alos on Saturday, Atletico Madrid ensured they remain second and move to within six points of Barcelona with a very comfortable 5-1 win at home to Real Betis.
Valencia sacked Gary Neville as first-team coach on Wednesday, but his replacement Pako Ayestaran wasn’t able to change their fortunes as they lost 1-2 away to Las Palmas.
Elsewhere, the Galician derby between Celta Vigo and Deportivo la Coruna ended in a 1-1 draw.