Barcelona ensured their unbeaten start to the La Liga season remain intact with a sensational 2-1 victory over arch rivals Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on Saturday.
It was a first taste of the El Clasico for new managers Carlo Ancelotti and Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino and the former took a huge gamble by selecting world’s record signing Gareth Bale in his starting lineup as well as opting for three central defenders, and played without a recognised striker in the first period with Karim Benzema starting from the bench.
Both Cesc Fabregas and £48 million summer signing Neymar started for the Baulgranas and the Brazil wonderkid waited for 18 minutes to open his Clasico account after his shot from an angle took a deflection off defender Daniel Carvajal to leave goalkeeper Diego Lopez flat footed.
Having terrified the Los Blancos defenders for the opening 20 minutes of the encounter, the goal saw him increase his league tally since joining from Santos to three.
Ancelotti’s men struggled to create real chances in the first-half of the match and with Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo not as viable as expected, the visitors lacked any threat in the attack.
Sami Khedira almost pulled the goal back on the nick of half-time following a Ronaldo cross from the left, only for Victor Valdes to get his foot across to the ball after the midfieder had almost had an empty net to slot into.
Barca, by contrast, kept possession much more easily for most of the period and were glad to be one-goal ahead at the interval.
Real began with some purposeful attack in the second-half and Ronaldo was soon denied by the impressive Valdes on the hour mark when the Spain number one pulled off a great save to stop the Portuguese, whose powerful low shot looked to be headed for inside of the net.
A couple of substitutions to the Madrid giants seemed to have restored their potency on the attack and the contest became a bit more closer getting into the final 25 minutes.
Substitute, Benzema, who has only a goal to his credit since the beginning of the season came close to restoring parity in the 73rd minute, but his effort from 25 yards came off the woodwork as Real searched for an equaliser.
Every thought of a leveler was fast diminishing after the hosts grabbed their second goal in the 78th minute.
Neymar played through Alexis Sanchez, who brilliantly chipped the ball from outside the box over Lopez, who was about six yards off his line.
Barcelona could have sealed the match seven minutes to the dead when Dani Alves nutmegged Ronaldo only for his effort to be saved by Lopez.
On the other end Khedira was played through for Real with Ronaldo in the centre of the box screaming for the ball, which the German ignored and and had a shot of his own saved by the heroic Valdes.
Madrid’s consolation came in the injury-time. Ronaldo played in 20-year-old substitute Jesse Rodriguez, whose not-so-powerful shot sneaked under Valdes’ body. But it was too little too late for Ancelotti’s men as Barca held on to a deserved win.
The Catalans are now six points ahead of Real in the La Liga table who has not won at home against their opponents in seven competitive El Clasicos.