Real Madrid put Barcelona to the sword to not just secure bragging rights but also pull away in the La Liga title race

Barcelona went into the game hoping the exorcise the ghost of their 3-3 draw against Inter Milan but were put to the sword by a clinical Real Madrid side that have now pulled away at the top of La Liga

The 185th El Clasico might have lacked the star power of the previous encounters but there was no shortage of competitiveness or intensity. In the end, it was Carlo Ancelotti’s men who picked up all three points at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It was Barcelona who started off well with both Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski having pops at goal in the opening minutes. Karim Benzema took the wind out of their sails with a 12th-minute opener that left Xavi Hernandez and co frustrated.

Ousmane Dembele and Lewandowski once again went close before Federico Valverde made the score 2-0 in the 35th minute. While Barcelona had opportunities, it was Real who were proving to be the clinical side.

The Catalans kept pushing but were handed another blow when Benzema had the ball in the net early in the second half. The visitors were, however, given a reprieve when the strike was chalked off for offside. Substitute Ferran Torres gave his side further hope when he halved the deficit in the 83rd minute.

The game was settled in stoppage time when Eric Garcia fouled Rodrygo to give away a penalty. The Brazilian stepped up to slot the ball home and send the Bernabeu into raptures.

The Hard Tackle takes a look at how both sets of players fared on the night.

Real Madrid

Andriy Lunin: 7/10

The Ukrainian stepped in for Thibaut Courtois and was largely impressive. He was nervy in the beginning but comfortable as the game wore on. Lunin was helped by some wayward finishing from Barcelona but also stepped up when it mattered. He made a fine save from Frenkie De Jong early in the second half but could do little to deny Torres a late consolation.

Daniel Carvajal: 6/10

The Spanish star largely kept Ousmane Dembele in check. The French winger got the better of Caravajal a few times but it mattered little as he left his scoring boots at home. Carvajal endured a difficult second half, especially when confronted with the Jordi Alba-Ansu Fati duo. He made way for Antonio Rudiger as Carlo Ancelotti chose to shore up his backline in the dying minutes.

Eder Militao: 8/10

The Brazilian international had Robert Lewandowski’s number on the night and stood tall against whatever was thrown at him. Good in the air and solid with his tackles, Militao was a force to be reckoned with.  It is not often that one sees Lewandowski dominated in a one vs one but the Los Blancos star managed to do just that. There was little he could do to prevent the Barcelona star’s role in setting up Ferran Torres’s goal.

David Alaba: 8/10

The Austrian ace was the right foil for Militao and was assertive at the back. He used his technical prowess and intelligence to silence Real and stop them in their tracks. He also made an excellent block to deny Lewandowski in the seventh minute.

Ferland Mendy: 7/10

He linked up well with Vinicius Junior and often overlapped the Brazilian going forward. He got himself an assist for Valverde’s goal to cap off a good first half. Mendy was less adventurous in the second half but was solid in defence keeping Dembele quiet.

Luka Modric: 7/10

The Croatian is a veteran in his field and helped Real seize control of the middle of the park. He schooled Pedri on more than one occasion and was a dominant presence in midfield. Modric started to struggle as the second half wore on and was taken off for Eduardo Cmaavinga in the 78th minute.

Aurelien Tchouameni: 7/10

The Frenchman was solid at the base of the Real midfield and kept things simple. He did make a couple of errors, first giving away a cheap freekick for a foul on Dembele and secondly ceding possession to Ansu Fati. Thankfully for him, neither cost his side dearly.

It was largely an assured performance from a player who stepped up and made his abilities count in one of the biggest matches on the football calendar.

Toni Kroos: 9/10

The German rolled back the years with a dominant performance. He had Sergio Busquets’ number and got the better of the Catalan in the buildup to Real Madrid’s opener. It set the tone for the night’s game as he continued to dictate the play and set the game’s pace.  Kroos continues to school his younger counterparts, often leaving them in his wake on the field.

Federico Valverde: 8/10

The Uruguayan put in another stellar performance on the right. He often drifted inwards and was not afraid to put his foot into a tackle when needed. Valverde scored a sensational second to double Real Madrid’s lead on the night and was a tireless worker all game. He was also the driving force behind the opportunity that saw Rodrygo win the penalty in stoppage time.

Karim Benzema: 7/10

The French veteran ended his goal drought with a well-taken finish in the first half. He moved into channels all night and kept the Barcelona defence on their toes. Benzema appeared to have scored in the second half but saw it chalked off for offside. He was taken off in the second half for Marco Asensio.

Vinicius Junior: 8/10

The Brazilian star gave Sergi Roberto a tough time and linked up well with Mendy on the left. He played a key role in both of Real Madrid’s first-half goals and was a nuisance throughout. Vinicius eventually made way for Rodrygo in the 84th minute. He also earned himself a yellow card for dissent on the night.

Substitutes

Eduardo Camavinga: 7/10

The Frenchman replaced the tiring Modric in the 78th minute and did his job in midfield.

Rodrygo: 8/10

It was a short but effective cameo by the Brazilian who not just won the late penalty but also dispatched it.

Antonio Rudiger: NA

The German was brought on late as Real south to see out the game.

Marco Asensio: NA

The Spaniard was a late substitute and had little time to make an impact.

Barcelona

Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10

The German should have done better to hold onto Vinicius’s shot in the leadup to Benzema’s opener. He could however do little about the other two strikes and was not protected well by his defence.

Sergi Roberto: 4/10

He struggled to keep up with Vinicius and often was caught out of position when Mendy double-teamed him. Roberto is struggling to hold the fort on the right flank and will need to do much better as a Barcelona first-XI player.

Jules Kounde: 6/10

Kounde could do little about Real Madrid’s goals and was not helped by Roberto or Eric Garcia. His lack of match fitness showed at times but he was still Barcelona’s best defender on the night.

Eric Garcia: 3/10

The former Manchester City man was terrible with his decision-making and did not exude confidence on the night. He made a poor clearance in the lead-up to the home side’s second goal and also gave away a silly penalty that ended his side’s hopes of a late fightback.

Alejandro Balde: 4/10

Valverde and Carvajal both made life miserable for Balde who never quite got going on the night. He was nervous in possession and gave it away far too cheaply, too often. The 18-year-old was playing his first El Clasico and it showed.

Frenkie De Jong: 6/10

De Jong started off well and was better going forward than in defence. He had a go at goal in the 37th minute and did well to make some good passes. The Dutchman also ran forward well, crafting opportunities and probing openings in the Real defence. He improved defensively in the second half after being shifted to a screening role.

Sergio Busquets: 3/10

It is time for the veteran to take a backseat. He was left chasing shadows against Toni Kroos and never could stamp his authority in midfield.

Pedri: 4/10

He struggled to do justice to the hype surrounding his abilities and was caught out of position for Real Madrid’s first-half goals. Pedri could not go toe to toe against Modric and Kroos and came off second best in most duels. The youngster still has much to learn and the performance on the night was a humbling reminder.

Raphinha: 5/10

He showed intent and hunger but was not able to back it up with the end product on the field. Raphinha got forward whenever necessary and had a couple of unsuccessful pops at goal. He also crafted opportunities for Lewandowski who failed to find the back of the net on the night.

Robert Lewandowski: 4/10

The Polish ace failed to channel his performance from midweek and struggled to make the most of his opportunities. He missed a sitter in the first half and never quite showed off his clinical side in the final third. Lewandowski played a role in Torres’s goal but that was about it.

Ousmane Dembele: 5/10

The Frenchman was certainly up for the challenge but was let down badly by his terrible decision-making.  He got into some good positions but couldn’t find the right pass or find the back of the net. This cost his side dear as Real despatched their opportunities with clinical efficiency to settle the tie. Dembele struggled as the game wore on as Mendy shackled him well in the second half.

Substitutes

Ferran Torres: 6/10

The Spaniard added more life to the Barcelona attack and gave his side hope with a late goal. A lot of what he attempted otherwise was more of a miss than a hit.

Gavi: 4/10

He added more fight to the Barcelona midfield but was not at the same level as the Real Madrid stars to make a game of it. He can also count himself lucky not to have been sent off for a reckless tackle on Tchouameni. Gavi also had a shot that was well blocked by Militao.

Jordi Alba: 5/10

He was an improvement attacking-wise over Balde but did not offer enough to make a difference.

Ansu Fati: 8/10

The youngster was potentially Barcelona’s best player of the game and caused Real several problems. He set up Torres’s goal with a good run and also went close twice with efforts of his own. Starting him would have been a bold decision that could have paid off for Xavi Hernandez.

Franck Kessie: NA

The former AC Milan man was brought on too late to make an impact.

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