There is almost no chance that Real Madrid will get themselves back into the La Liga race this season, but they'll still be very proud of their performance on Saturday and remember their victory fondly. Even with many of their first team players on the bench for the start of the match -- including Cristiano Ronaldo -- Los Merengues turned in an excellent performance in a 2-1 win.
Even though Real Madrid's lineup suggested that they wouldn't be too bothered by a loss in this league version of El Clasico, they got off to a storming start and stunned Barcelona with an early goal. Alvaro Morata, starting his first Clasico, provided a brilliant assist on the 6th minute goal, setting up Karim Benzema. From the left flank, Morata whipped in a perfect cross and Benzema directed the ball past Victor Valdes.
It only took Barcelona 12 minutes to find an equalizer, through Lionel Messi. The goal was his 18th in all Clasicos, tying him with Alfredo Di Stefano for the most career goals in Clasicos. The goal also made this Messi's 16th consecutive La Liga match in which he has scored, which extends his own record. Dani Alves set up the goal with a fantastic through ball, and Messi made himself a tiny bit of space despite solid defending by Sergio Ramos before placing a finish to the near post.
The remainder of the first half was light on chances, as Barcelona appeared content to keep possession and avoid getting caught out of shape on counters by Real Madrid. David Villa had a decent half-chance in the 39th minute that he screwed so wide of the goal that it went out for a throw-in, while Morata disappointingly put an uncontested header into the side netting a couple of minutes later.
A rather dull first 15 minutes of the second half led Jose Mourinho to turn to his bench, and the match picked up in quality once he introduced Cristiano Ronaldo and Sami Khedira. The referee got very card-happy from this point forward, though the Barcelona and Madrid players gave him plenty of reason to be with very rash challenges. As the game opened up and got more intense, more chances came. Raphael Varane had to rob Villa of a chance mid-way through the half, while Morata had a one-on-one brilliantly saved in the 77th minute.
Out of absolutely nowhere, Madrid took the lead, capitalizing on a corner kick. Luka Modric, who had unquestionably his best game to date in a Real Madrid shirt, was the man who provided a perfect delivery to Sergio Ramos, who netted Los Blancos' third set piece goal in three Clasicos. He rose up above the defense and directed a perfect and almost indefensible header past Valdes, and the entire Barcelona team looked stunned.
Following that goal, one might have expected Madrid to bunker, but they did nothing of the sort. The Blaugrana continued to look absolutely shellshocked and took a battering from Madrid for the rest of the match. In the 88th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo smacked a free kick off the crossbar and Pepe missed his follow-up attempt just wide.
Barcelona could hardly get a hold of the ball in the dying minutes, but threatened in stoppage time on the counter. Sergio Ramos appeared to take down Adriano in the penalty area, but the referee waved play on. The Barcelona players were furious and surrounded the referee, but predictably, their claims came to nothing. Following the final whistle, Victor Valdes berated the official and was shown a red card in a fitting ending to the match.