In what could be Lionel Messi’s final Clásico, Real Madrid turned the La Liga race on its head with a 2-1 home win against Barcelona on a stormy night in the Spanish capital.
With the season sweep against their historic rivals, Los Blancos moved into first place over their crosstown nemesis Atlético Madrid, who will face Real Betis on Sunday night. It’s the first time in 2021 that a team other than Atlético has held the top spot in La Liga after Atlético blew a 10-point lead.
Zinedine Zidane’s side was powered by two first-half goals, including an all-world effort from Karim Benzema. In the 13th minute, the French striker back-heeled a pass from Lucas Vázquez that snuck past Barça keeper Marc-André ter Stegen for the opening goal.
Real doubled its lead in the 28th minute when midfielder Toni Kroos’s free kick deflected off the back of USMNT fullback Sergiño Dest and then off Jordi Alba’s head before glancing in for the goal.
While Barcelona was able to pull one back in the 60th minute thanks to an Óscar Mingueza goal, the Catalan side couldn’t manage to secure an equalizer despite a hectic final half-hour in the pouring rain, which included a denied penalty shout in the 84th minute and a shot off the crossbar in the 94th.
The win for Real was made even more impressive by the fact that it was without its starting center back duo in the injured Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane, who tested positive for COVID-19. Real can close out a spectacular week when it heads to Anfield on Wednesday looking to preserve a 3-1 lead in the Champions League quarterfinals second leg against Liverpool.