The first Clasico of the Carlo Ancelotti era went much better than the first Clasico of the Jose Mourinho era, but the result was ultimately the same for Real Madrid. Despite a spell of dominance in the second half and a penalty shout that should have been given for Madrid, it was Barcelona who walked away 2-1 winners from Camp Nou on the back of a pair of wonderful goals.
Real Madrid started the game in the 4-3-3 formation that they had worked on over the last couple of weeks, but with one massive change. Instead of starting youngster Asier Illarramendi as his anchor man, Ancelotti turned to Sergio Ramos, while giving Pepe a start in defense. Gareth Bale came into the team as part of a fluid front three with Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria, playing in the center more often than not.
The home side made tactical adjustments of their own. Knowing that Madrid would crowd the middle, Gerardo Martino brought in Cesc Fabregas to play center forward. While Lionel Messi still drifted into the center frequently, his starting position was on the right wing.
Barcelona controlled possession as part of a physical start to the match that saw both defensive midfielders pick up yellow cards. Ramos' yellow would come into play when Neymar scored his first career Clasico goal.
In the 19th minute, Sami Khedira lost a 50-50 battle on his right wing, leaving space in the center for Andres Iniesta to run into with the ball. Ramos, unwilling to risk a second booking, wasn't able to make a physical challenge to slow down the Barcelona playmaker. Iniesta looked to his left and found Neymar, who steadied himself and found the side netting at the far post as the Camp Nou exploded.
Less than two minutes later, Messi missed a massive chance on the counter after completely skinning Marcelo down the flank. Not long after that, the Blaugrana backed off a tiny bit, letting Madrid have more possession, marking an early difference between the reign of Martino and those of his predecessors.
One minute before the end of the first half, Madrid finally created an excellent chance. From the left wing, Ronaldo created space for himself and played a dangerous low square ball across the six-yard box. Khedira got into position to finish, but didn't place his shot well, allowing Victor Valdes to make a save. There was a shout for handball when the ball deflected off the arm of Adriano, but he was sliding on the ground and did not play the ball with his arm.
Following the break, in the 54th minute, Neymar had a volley saved by Diego Lopez on a ball over the top by Javier Mascherano. From then on, Madrid had the better of the chances and were very unlucky not to score on multiple occasions before the 75 minute mark.
Valdes came up big for Barcelona again in the 58th minute, making a stop on Ronaldo from close range after Luka Modric played him in on goal. Off the ensuing corner, Angel Di Maria took an impressive rip from the top of the box, but his effort sailed just over the crossbar.
Madrid should have had a penalty in the 71st minute, but the referee was having none of Ronaldo's complaints. It appeared that Los Merengues' big star was pushed down by Mascherano in the box, but he was told to get up. One minute later, Karim Benzema -- who entered the game for Bale in the second half -- was just as unlucky as he struck the crossbar on a brilliant effort from outside the penalty area.
Just a minute before that, Martino brought on Alexis Sanchez for Cesc Fabregas to get a burst of pace up top. In the 78th minute, that move paid off perfectly. With Madrid pushing forward for an equalizer, there was plenty of space available to counter into for the Blaugrana. Sanchez took advantage off a turnover, getting a step on Raphael Varane before cutting the ball back and hitting a brilliant chip over Lopez, who had come off his line.
Madrid youngster Jese Rodriguez came on as a late substitute and managed to help make things interesting at the very end. Ronaldo, who was frustrated all game at his teammates' inability to find him for easy finishes or make the most of his brilliant final balls, finally had his hard work rewarded in stoppage time. He found Jese in space with the through ball and he hit a composed finish from the top of the box to set up a dramatic finish.
Unfortunately for the visitors, they weren't able to get the ball off Barcelona to create a chance at an equalizer. While Ancelotti will be satisfied with his team's performance, they still have to leave Camp Nou with no points.
Barcelona: Valdes, Adriano, Pique, Mascherano, Alves, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta (Song 77'), Neymar (Pedro 84'), Fabregas (Sanchez 78'), Messi
Goals: Neymar (19'), Sanchez (78')
Real Madrid: Lopez, Marcelo, Varane, Pepe, Carvajal, Modric, Ramos (Illarramendi 56'), Khedira, Ronaldo, Bale (Benzema 61'), Di Maria (Jese 76')
Goals: Jese (90')