La Liga - Barca win Clasico to move clear

Eurosport - Sat, 10 Apr 22:59:00 2010

Barcelona beat eternal rivals Real Madrid 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu to move three points clear at the top of La Liga.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (R) celebrates his goal against Real Madrid with teammate Xavi Hernandez - 0

Lionel Messi opened the scoring in the first half, latching on to a superb pass from Xavi before turning inside Raul Albiol and firing past Iker Casillas.

Pedro grabbed the second, running on to another glorious through-ball from Xavi before tucking into the bottom corner.

Real, who were comprehensively outplayed throughout the match, did have one clear-cut chance to get themselves back into the game when Guti sent Rafael van der Vaart in on goal, only for Victor Valdes to pull off a fine save.

The home faithful were flocking for the exits long before the final whistle. With their team now three points off the pace with seven league games remaining - with Barca bossing the head-to-head record, which decides position in Spain rather than goal difference - and out of the Champions League, they may now end the season without a trophy to celebrate.

Despite the glittering array of attacking stars on display, it was defences that prevailed in the opening stages, with Albiol halting the first of Messi's jinking runs and Cristiano Ronaldo beaten to the ball by Gerard Pique as he tried to slalom his way past three men.

Messi did cause Real hearts to skip a beat on 12 minutes when he went down under the challenge of Ezequiel Garay in the area, though referee Mejuto Gonzalez waved for play to continue.

The official did likewise when Ronaldo skipped past Pique in the area before tumbling to his knees after being released by a perfectly-weighted through-ball from Marcelo.

As the half progressed, Barcelona began to settle into their fluid, mesmerising passing game, while the home side were content to sit back, stifle their opponents and hit them on the counter-attack with the pace of Ronaldo.

With Real organised at the back, Messi had struggled to find the space to run at defenders - but as is so often the case, he suddenly burst into life to fire his side into the lead just after the half-hour mark.

After winning a foul on the right flank, the little Argentinian took a quick free-kick, playing the ball square to Xavi, who saw the darting run his team-mate had made through the heart of the Real defence. Xavi lofted a superbly-timed ball right into the path of Messi, who chested down past Albiol before firing past the onrushing Casillas.

Xabi Alonso had the chance to grab a quick equaliser moments later, but glanced a header over when Van der Vaart's corner fell to him inside the six-yard box.

Real continued to look dangerous on the break, and Gonzalo Higuain should at least have forced a save from Valdes after latching on to a long ball over the top from Fernando Gago. He blasted his volley high into the stands.

Marcelo and Ronaldo stung the hands of Valdes with two well-struck drives at the start of the second half as Real pressured Barcelona higher up the pitch. They were then caught with exactly the sucker-punch they were hoping to land themselves in the first half.

Xavi was once again the source of the goal, releasing Pedro on the break with a measured ball in behind the defence. The forward raced clear of Alvaro Arbeloa and on to the pass before curling a low shot past Casillas and into the bottom corner.

Real coach Manuel Pellegrini reacted by replacing Marcelo with Guti, and the Spaniard immediately provided a through-ball for Van der Vaart that dissected the Barcelona defence: Van der Vaart's shot was far too close to Valdes, who saved smartly to his left.

Valdes was once again in the right place to deny Ronaldo after a surge down the left wing, while at the other end Casillas flung himself low to his left to parry a fierce drive from Messi after the Real defence had once again been bypassed by the outstanding passing of Xavi.

One of the questions that will linger in the minds of the Bernabeu faithful after the night will be why Xavi was not closed down more effectively when his passing was tearing the Real defence apart time and again.

He once again picked out a Messi run in behind the defence on 78 minutes, with Casillas once again forced into a reaction save when one-on-one with the Argentinian.

With the match escaping them, tempers began to fray amongst the Real stars, with Garay in particular lucky to escape with just a booking for a reckless tackle on Dani Alves, and by the time the referee put an end to the misery of Ronaldo and company, the majority of the crowd had long since departed.

Michael FitzGerald / Eurosport

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