Relentless Real beat Barca to take La Liga lead
April 11 2021 11:37 PM
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring during the La Liga match against Barcelona at t
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring during the La Liga match against Barcelona at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain, on Saturday. (AFP)

Reuters/ Madrid, Spain

Real Madrid beat rivals Barcelona 2-1 at home in an entertaining, rain-soaked ‘Clasico’ on Saturday to stretch their winning run to six games in all competitions and go top of La Liga for the first time in three months.
Karim Benzema put the champions in charge at a soggy Alfredo di Stefano stadium with a delightful backheel in the 14th minute while a deflected Toni Kroos free kick doubled their lead in the 28th.
Barca hit back on the hour mark through Oscar Mingueza and the defender almost found the equaliser later on, while the Catalans had a huge penalty appeal waved away when Martin Braithwaite fell following a challenge by Ferland Mendy.
Real midfielder Casemiro was sent off in stoppage time for picking up two yellow cards in the space of a minute while Barca substitute Ilaix Moriba hit the crossbar in the fourth minute of added time.
The hosts survived the nail-biting finish to complete the double over Barca in a league season for the first time since 2008 and round off a sensational week after beating Liverpool 3-1 in a Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday.
Zinedine Zidane’s side joined Atletico Madrid on 66 points and moved top of the table.
Barca, who lost for the first time in the league since early December, dropped to third on 65.
Barca looked to dominate possession but were powerless to control Real’s counterattacks and went behind when Federico Valverde hurdled a Jordi Alba tackle to shuttle down the pitch, feeding Lucas Vazquez whose low cross was turned in by Benzema’s sublime backheel.
Real caught Barca out on the break again when Vinicius Jr. raced on to a Luka Modric pass and was felled by Ronald Araujo. The free kick was in perfect range for Kroos, whose shot bounced off the back of Sergino Dest to wrong-foot Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Real were inches away from scoring a third when Valverde again tore down Barca’s left-hand side and smacked the far post, Vazquez pouncing on the rebound but shooting straight at Ter Stegen.
Barca barely caused Real any trouble until the end of the first half, when Lionel Messi hit the far post straight from a corner. The Argentine had a better chance moments later from inside the area but could not beat Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois.
Koeman took decisive action at halftime, throwing on Antoine Griezmann for Dest and the French substitute helped pull Barca back into contention, playing a dummy which led to Mingueza scoring.
The torrential rain caused Messi to change his soaked shirt late in the game and the slippery conditions helped set up the frantic finish, but Real weathered the storm.

Real’s Vazquez ruled out rest of season with knee injury

Real Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez is set to miss the rest of the s
eason after straining knee ligaments during the 2-1 win over Barcelona, his club said yesterday.
Vazquez, who has played at right back for most of the campaign in the absence of the injured Dani Carvajal, was involved in a heavy challenge with Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets on Saturday and was substituted.
The Spaniard set up Karim Benzema’s opening goal against Barcelona which put Real on the way to a sixth straight victory in all competitions and took them top of La Liga.
Vazquez played in Real’s 3-1 win over Liverpool in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg and Alvaro Odriozola is set to take his place for the return leg at Anfield on Wednesday.

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