Ronaldo grabs Clasico glory for 10-man Madrid

Ronaldo's 16th goal against Barcelona stunned the Camp Nou masses and handed Luis Enrique's team its first defeat in 40 matches from all competitions.

Cristiano Ronaldo - cropped

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal at Camp Nou

Cristiano Ronaldo struck after a red card for Sergio Ramos to snatch a 2-1 Clasico victory for 10-man Real Madrid over Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday.

Both sets of players and a capacity Camp Nou crowd paid a moving pre-match tribute to the late Johan Cruyff but there was little of the footballing magic the Dutchman made his calling card during a fitful contest in Catalonia.

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Lionel Messi was forced to feed off scraps in search of his 500th Barcelona goal, although he drew an excellent save from Keylor Navas before Gerard Pique headed the hosts into a 56th-minute lead.

Karim Benzema showed superb awareness and technique to volley Madrid level and there was justifiable fury from the visitor when Gareth Bale had an 80th-minute header ruled out for an apparent foul on Jordi Alba.

> Marcelo: Clasico win gives Madrid morale to keep fighting

Madrid's burgeoning confidence might have been checked when Ramos' challenge concluded a rash outing with his second booking seven minutes from time. But Ronaldo's 16th goal against Barcelona stunned the Camp Nou masses and handed Luis Enrique's team its first defeat in 40 matches from all competitions.

Barcelona is six points ahead of Atletico Madrid at the summit with seven matches remaining this season, while Madrid is a point further back, coach Zinedine Zidane having made a convincing pitch for his long-term job prospects at the Santiago Bernabeu.

After Cruyff was honoured with a stadium-spanning mosaic and a minute's silence, Luis Suarez wasted a glorious chance to give Barcelona a 10th-minute lead.

A misjudgement from Madrid captain Ramos, passed fit following a back problem, left Neymar and Suarez tearing towards goal – although the Uruguay star got his feet tangled and failed to convert at the back post when his team-mate squared.

> Mascherano: Barcelona not smart enough

Navas did not make a save until he parried Ivan Rakitic's stinging 21st-minute shot, while the already booked Ramos was not punished when he brought down Messi on the edge of the Madrid box.

Bale and Ronaldo carried growing menace for the visitor as the half progressed but Madrid was struggling to create openings as marauding Barca full-back Dani Alves blazed over over the post.





When a chance fell to forward colleague Benzema on the penalty spot a minute from the break the France international clattered his volley hopelessly into orbit.

Ramos continued to teeter on his disciplinary tightrope when he brought down Suarez three minutes into the second half – Messi fired the resulting free-kick over.

The mercurial Argentina star called Navas into action in the 54th minute with a sumptuous lob that the goalkeeper impressively clawed out of his top left corner.

A flurry of corners followed and Madrid was unable to withstand the pressure as Pique slipped away from Pepe to send a thumping header into the net from Rakitic's right-wing delivery.

> Iniesta: Clasico loss hurts

The lead would only last six minutes as Madrid full-back Marcelo fed Toni Kroos at the end of a driving run. 

Germany midfielder Kroos tried to steer across the box, with the ball deflecting off Jordi Alba, but Benzema was alert to the possibilities and swivelled to acrobatically volley home.

Barcelona needed a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Javier Mascherano to deny Ronaldo and Suarez flashed wide on the end of Messi's raking pass before Bale had his celebrations cut short by the officials.

The Wales international simply appeared to time his jump better than Alba, climbing above the full-back to dispatch Ronaldo's cross but referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez chalked off the goal following a conversation with his assistant.

Ramos' luck eventually ran out when he dived in on Suarez but Ronaldo would not allow that to stem the victory charge.

The three-time Ballon d'Or winner chested down Bale's deep right-wing cross at the back post and buried an unerring finish beyond Bravo, peeling away to delight in the home supporters' silence.

 

Key Opta stats:

-Barcelona has never won a league game against Real Madrid when its lead the competition and were 10 or more points ahead of Los Blancos (D1 L3).
-Karim Benzema scored against Barcelona at Camp Nou for first time January 2012. The French player has equalled his best goal tally in a single La Liga season (21, the same as in season 2011/12).
-Zinedine Zidane is first Real Madrid coach not to lose in his first La Liga Clasico since Bernd Schuster in 2007/08.
-Sergio Ramos is the player who has been sent off the most in El Clasico in the last ten seasons (four).
-Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in four of his last five games against Barcelona in all competitions (four goals) and Messi has not scored in his last five in a row against Real Madrid, his worst run.
-Cristiano Ronaldo is the third top scorer in El Clasico in all competitions (16) after surpassing Raul (15).
-Barcelona has ended its 39 games unbeaten run in all competitions, the best ever run of a Spanish team.

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