El Clasico talking points as Barcelona beat Real Madrid at the Nou Camp
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 23/03/15 10:53am
From Suarez's winner to Neymar's miss, we round up the talking points from Sunday's El Clasico...
Mathieu capitalises on Real’s set-piece weakness
Ahead of kick-off, Real Madrid had conceded a league-high 33 per cent of their goals from set-pieces this season and Jeremy Mathieu, who scored twice against them last season for Valencia, exploited that weakness to head Barcelona in front on 19 minutes.
Only three teams have scored fewer goals from set-pieces than Barcelona in La Liga this term but the France centre-back finished in emphatic fashion after breaking clear of Sergio Ramos and meeting Lionel Messi’s inviting cross – the Argentina international’s 15th assist of the campaign.
Ronaldo punishes Neymar’s miss
Neymar was guilty of squandering a number of chances and his first-half blunder in the Real six-yard box, when he failed to turn in Suarez’s cross-shot, was punished just moments later when Cristiano Ronaldo instigated a counter-attack and slotted in himself to make it 1-1. “If Neymar had scored it would have been 2-0 and a different game,” Manchester City’s Gael Clichy told Sky Sports at half-time.
Instead it was Ronaldo celebrating. The Portuguese had gone two La Liga games without finding the net and hit the bar from close range after 12 minutes but he has now netted seven times in his last eight trips to the Nou Camp.
Sunday’s strike drew Ronaldo level with Real great Raul on 15 El Clasico goals. Messi (21) and Alfredo di Stefano (18) are the only players ahead of him on the list.
Suarez scores winner
Gareth Bale thought he’d put Real ahead on 40 minutes but saw his effort ruled out for an offside flag on Ronaldo – however, a former Premier League star was celebrating after the interval when Luis Suarez converted his first El Clasico goal.
Receiving a long pass from Dani Alves, Suarez – who picked up a first-half booking for catching Pepe with his studs - arrowed a shot across Iker Casillas and into the goal. “His run was brilliant, his first touch was brilliant and his finish was brilliant,” said Gerry Armstrong. “He got four or five yards on Pepe and that’s all he needs. Give him a chance at goal and he sticks it in the back of the net.”
The goal was Suarez’s seventh in his last seven games. "Of course he’s a great player but he gives so much to the team,” said Clichy. “We’ll remember the goal but he probably made 10-15 runs like that during the game. He’s a great striker.”
Barca take charge of title race
Real Madrid had won the last two Clasicos but haven’t won three on the spin since 1978 and their defeat on Sunday leaves them four points adrift of their table-topping rivals.
Remarkably Real, who won 19 out of 21 La Liga matches earlier this season, now have a huge task ahead of them to clinch the crown, after losing back-to-back away games for the first time since September 2012.
“Definitely Barcelona will win [the title]. No question,” said West Ham’s on-loan Barca man Alex Song. “I know how it works there. They will win the league.”
With a trip to Atletico Madrid to come, plus Champions League commitments providing a distraction, the title race is certainly not over – but the Catalans undoubtedly landed a crucial blow on their rivals at the Nou Camp.
MSN outshine BBC in Nou Camp
Lionel Messi has scored more goals than Karim Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo combined in La Liga in 2015 and despite Ronaldo’s first-half equaliser, it was a frustrating night for Real’s front three.
Bale completed just 45 per cent of his 20 passes in the opposition half, while Neymar (86.7) and Messi (87.5) were far more accurate for the hosts. The former Tottenham man also struggled to get into the game, with just 40 touches all night.
However, it was Ronaldo who came in for criticism after the match. “Apart from the goal he scored, for me, he didn’t do very well tonight,” Song told Sky Sports. “It was not the great Ronaldo tonight. I didn’t see something special.”
Messi, meanwhile, was deemed to have dropped below his high standards – but an assist and an El Clasico victory to extend Barcelona’s La Liga lead was hardly a bad night’s work. “A lot of players would like to have a bad night like that,” said Clichy. “He didn’t have a great night but everything came from him.”
For more El Clasico analysis watch Revista de La Liga at 6pm on Monday on Sky Sports 5 HD