Vinicius, Mariano star in Real Madrid's El Clasico win over Barcelona

Real Madrid defeated Barcelona 2-0 in the second El Clasico of the season as Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz scored decisive goals at Santiago Bernabeu.

Mariano (right) scored just 50 seconds after coming on in the stoppage time of second half.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Real Madrid won the Clasico and might have saved its season as it ended its slump in the best way possible on Sunday, by beating Barcelona 2-0 and returning to the top of La Liga.

Vinicius Junior's deflected finish and a stoppage-time goal from Mariano Diaz decided a frenzied contest at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Madrid was given life after a Champions League defeat by Manchester City had left them on the brink of crisis.

Instead, an affirming victory sends them one point clear at the top of the table and shifts focus back to Quique Setien's Barcelona, which was outfought and, at times, outplayed, even if it had chances too.

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Lionel Messi's rasping shot was denied by Thibaut Courtois in the first half but it was the Argentine's opposing captain Sergio Ramos who was thrashing his arms in celebration after the final whistle.

His reaction was an indication of the importance of this victory, not only for the effect it has on the standings but on the dynamic of the title race, which had seemed to switch firmly in favour of Barca.

Cristiano Ronaldo was watching from an executive box and Madrid could have done with him during a period in which it had won only one of its last five games.

Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday this match would not decide who lifted the trophy in May but a Barca win and a five-point gap might well have been difficult to close.

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Yet from the start, Barcelona seemed keener to kill the game than win it, playing for time in the hope of keeping the contest tight, when it might have been better off attacking its opponents' fragility.

Home advantage has certainly meant little in this fixture given Barca had won its last four league meetings here, with Ramos admitting last week that Madrid's players have begun to feel anxiety inside their own stadium.

There was more tension than creativity in the early stages as Federico Valverde crashed into Arthur Melo before fellow Spain full-backs Dani Carvajal and Jordi Alba were both booked after a disagreement.

Madrid had the better of the play and regularly broke at speed through Vinicius down the left but constantly  failed to make the final pass, with Isco once left with his head in his hands after Marcelo opted not to pull back.

- Courtois rock solid -

Barcelona played for time, its passing was slow and its lack of urgency to restart obvious. At one point Messi bent to do up his shoelaces and re-spotted the ball before taking a corner.

But the visitor also created chances as Antoine Griezmann drove over from Alba's cutback and then Madrid had Courtois to thank for two excellent saves.

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First, Arthur held off Toni Kroos to go clear but his finish was blocked by Courtois' foot and then the Belgian palmed away Messi's shot after he had skipped in behind Madrid's defence.

Ramos was lucky to get away with an error that allowed Nelson Semedo to break past him while Alba risked a second yellow when he checked Valverde but referee Mateu Lahoz was unmoved.

Barcelona was sloppy after half-time and Madrid should have capitalised. Instead, Isco's header beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen but not Gerard Pique on the line and Karim Benzema volleyed over after a sloppy pass from Arturo Vidal.

Vidal was replaced by Martin Braithwaite, Barca's emergency signing, and he sprinted in behind Marcelo twice in his first minute.

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But Madrid remained in the ascendancy and in the 71st minute it took the lead. Benzema came short and pointed right to encourage Vinicius to run in behind. Kroos found him and Vinicius' shot deflected off the sliding Pique to beat ter Stegen at his near post.

The game opened up as Barcelona chased an equaliser. Marcelo celebrated when Messi's surge through was stopped by Raphael Varane. Pique headed Messi's cross over at the near post. Messi picked up a yellow card for a frustrated slide on Casemiro.

In injury time, Ter Stegen ventured up for a late free-kick but it was Madrid that struck again. Mariano sped past Nelson Semedo and finished from the angle.

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