Five things we learned from Barca’s win over Madrid
Barcelona took a huge step towards a fifth La Liga title in seven years with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid thanks to Luis Suarez’s stunning strike on March 23.
Here, AFP sports looks at five lessons to be learned heading into the final 10 games of the La Liga season.
1. Suarez sinks his teeth into Madrid
The Uruguayan made his Barca debut in the first game between these two sides as Madrid ran out convincing 3-1 winners back in October after completing a four-month ban for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.
This time it was Madrid who were wounded by the former Liverpool star as he capped his rapid rise in recent weeks with what he described as his “most important goal for Barca” and the one that could land them the title.
2. Ronaldo wins the battle, Messi the war
In the clash between the world’s two best players, Cristiano Ronaldo won 1-0 as his first-half equaliser moved him level with Real legend Raul as the third highest scorer in El Clasico history.
However, it was Lionel Messi who emerged victorious on the evening despite a subdued display until space opened up for Barca as Madrid chased the game in the final 20 minutes.
3. Pique’s turnaround at the heart of Barca revival
Barca had also scored first at the Bernabeu earlier in the campaign, but a stupid handball inside his own area from Gerard Pique handed them a route back into the game and they took full advantage.
That was just one of a series of errors from the Spanish international in the opening months of the season, but his remarkable turnaround in performance since the turn of the year has been one of the hallmarks of Barca’s run of 18 wins in 19 games.
Pique claimed he wanted to return to being the best centre-back in the world a few months ago and Barca boss Luis Enrique said he was “well on the road” to doing so after a solid display to hold the Barca defence together in the face of some incessant first-half pressure from Madrid.
4. Modric offers Madrid hope
Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti took solace from his side’s much improved display for the first hour of the match in comparison to their wretched form in recent weeks.
That upturn had much to do with the return of Luka Modric in midfield after four months out as the Croatian played a major role in the lovely move which culminated in Ronaldo’s equaliser.
It was no coincidence that Ancelotti’s men faded as the former Spurs man’s legs wilted in the second-half after such a long spell on the sidelines.
5. Bale, Neymar still have much to prove
The two blockbuster buys of the 2013 summer transfer window were seen as the heirs to Messi and Ronaldo’s thrones at the Spanish giants.
Yet, this was another showing in which neither covered themselves in glory.
Bale was unfortunate to see a goal ruled out for Ronaldo being in an offside position in the first period, but fluffed his lines when firing wide with a good chance to send Madrid in 2-1 at the break.
Neymar passed up even better chances, most notably seconds before Ronaldo’s leveller, and was also too selfish on a number of occasions after the break with teammates better positioned to add the finishing touch.