Saturday was supposed to be the day that Real Madrid flipped El Clasico on its head. Barcelona had been dominant of late, but Madrid had surged to the top of La Liga with some fantastic play and were ready to continue that form against their rivals at the Bernabeu. It wasn't to be though, as Barcelona showed why they have been the dominant team in Spain and all of Europe in recent years by coming back from a goal down to defeat their rivals in Madrid, 3-1.
It was Madrid who got off to the flying start, but it was less their own brilliance and more Victor Valdes' mistake that handed them the early advantage. His awful pass found Angel di Maria just 25 yards from goal and the Argentine was quick to find Mesut Ozil at the top of the box. Ozil's shot was blocked, but it fell to Karim Benzema, who smashed it home from in close and Madrid were ahead after just 21 seconds.
Much of the first half went Madrid's way. Lionel Messi had one opportunity that Iker Casillas pushed wide, but much of the action was on the other end. Cristiano Ronaldo stung Valdes' palms with a wicked shot and ruined a golden opportunity when he took a great pass from Benzema and had much of the net to shoot at as well as Ozil wide open on the right for an easy finish. Instead he shot it well wide of the goal.
That miss from Ronaldo came back to bite Madrid at the half-hour mark when Messi dribbled through the midfield and slipped an incredible pass into the path of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean latched onto the pass and did well to clear some space for himself before ripping a shot that Casillas had no chance at to level for the visitors.
There's no doubt that the Merengues were the better side in the first 45 minutes, but it didn't show on the scoreboard That was largely due to Ronaldo's decision to shoot and shoot wide when he could have played the ball into Ozil for the easy finish and things didn't get any better in the second half. He looked nothing like one of the two best players in the world as he put in a shocker and Barcelona took advantage.
Barcelona started the second half brightly and it paid off after eight minutes when Xavi's great skill mixed with a lucky break to put them on top. A ball bounced out to Xavi from 25 yards and the midfielder did a fantastic job to get on top of a volley and rifle a shot with great pace. It was a great strike, but one that Casillas would have gotten to, except it deflected off of Marcelo and towards the opposite side of the goal. It bounced off the inside of the post and in for a fortunate goal that propelled the visitors in front.
Now down a goal and looking to equalize, Madrid made a change in taking off the dreadful Lassana Diarra for Sami Khedira and it paid off immediately as they began to get control of the match back. They should have also gotten level as Ronaldo got free in front of the net and had the entire goal to shoot at, but his header went wide of the goal as Ronaldo's nightmare night continued.
That miss looked especially bad just a minute late when Dani Alves got up down the right and delivered a pinpoint cross to Cesc Fabregas at the back post. Sanchez had already become a new Barcelona signing to score and Fabregas made it two for two new Barcelona signings to score as he headed the ball back across and into the side netting to make it 3-1 Barcelona.
It was a shocking turn for Madrid, who thought they would equalize on Ronaldo's free header and a minute later were down two goals. They tried to get back in the match by bringing on Kaka, who created several chances and forced Valdes to make one tremendous save, but they couldn't find another goal.
Despite going ahead 1-0, this Clasico looked much like all of the other recent Clasicos. Some theatrical diving from Barcelona, some questionable from Madrid, Andres Iniesta playing absolutely perfect, a little Messi brilliance and despite all of the hype around Madrid entering the match, another Barcelona win. The only thing missing was some fighting, but that's why they still have a second match to play this season. Until then, or the end of the season if Madrid can keep their lead atop La Liga, the rivalry still belongs to the Catalans.