Real Madrid vs Barcelona match report: Cristiano Ronaldo and Co fight back to ruin Luis Suarez's debut in thrilling El Clasico
Real Madrid 3 Barcelona 1
After four months out it took Luis Suarez just three minutes to make his mark for Barcelona, crossing for Neymar to score, but there was no happy ending to his long awaited debut as Real Madrid won the first Clasico of the season.
Suarez then laid on what should have been goal number two for Leo Messi but the Argentine saw his chance saved by Iker Casillas.
On such a meeting of two of the game’s greats – the Real Madrid keeper coming out on top – the game turned with Real running out comfortable winners.
So much has been said about Suarez and Barcelona’s front three over the last four months, but finally on the pitch together they clicked instantly to combine and get their first goal.
It was Suarez’ pass that put Neymar in on goal, Messi’s run taking several defenders with him for the space to open up, allowing the Brazilian to bend his shot into Iker Casillas' left-hand corner from just inside the penalty area.
Neymar has now scored in his last six games and matched his tally from last season, with nine so far. Both team’s had complained about the relatively early kick-off before the game and it seemed to have affected Madrid’s defenders, who were slow to everything in those early exchanges. The early goal set the tone at the other end too. Madrid, the wounded beast, surged forward and Barcelona struggled to contain them with Gerard Pique doing his best to hold together the visitor’s defence.
On ten minutes Real so nearly leveled when Ronaldo crossed from the left and Benzema headed on to the bar. From the rebound he smashed another shot goalwards that grazed the bar with Claudio Bravo beaten. Bravo then saved from Toni Kroos’ long shot as Real kept the pressure up.
Barcelona finally got some respite when Suarez forced a corner from Dani Carvajal. With 15 mintues played he was the only Barcleona forward not to have been booked with both Messi and Neymar shown yellow cards.
It was a well-behaved start after the ban for biting Georgio Chiellini and he was causing havoc in a Madrid defence that still seemed to be carrying a dazed and confused Pepe.
Barcelona almost took full advantage of the malaise in the middle of the home side’s defence and Messi could, and should, have made it 2-0. It would have been Suarez’ assist had it gone in. The Liverpool striker ran into territory vacated by an out-of-position Marcelo and crossed for Messi, setting up what would have been league goal number 251 of his career, but Casillas saved brilliantly at the Argentine’s feet.
Barcelona would rue the missed chances because Real Madrid drew level 10 minutes before half-time, when Pique appeared to slip in his own area and blocked a Marcelo cross with his arm, leaving referee Jesus Gil Manzano with no option but to point to the spot and book the defender.
From the spot-kick Cristiano Ronaldo scored to end Bravo’s run of 776 minutes in La Liga without conceding and set up the second half perfectly.
Madrid were in front after 50 minutes when Benzema fed Ronaldo down the right. His shot was blocked by Pique but from the resulting corner Kroos planted the ball on Pepe’s head and the defender, who had so much trouble in the first-half, rose highest in the area to head past Bravo. Barcelona had still not conceded a goal in open play all season but they were 2-1 down at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Suarez was still full of running and released Neymar as Barcelona tried to hit back straight away. With a lung-busting run Suarez made it into the area for the return pass but the referee penalised him for a foul on Ramos as he lost and regained the ball from the Spain defender.
Barcelona were throwing everyone forward but leaving themselves dangerously open at the back and on the hour they paid the ultimate price. Rakitic’s corner was cleared to Isco who spun away from Iniesta and played in Ronaldo. He released Ronaldo who played in James Rodriguez who found Benzema who scored. It was a goal worthy of winning any game.
Suarez finally made way on 70 minutes. There were stronger candidates to be replaced but his first game back was never going to last the full 90 minutes.
Pedro replaced him but the Barça heads were down and the change, if anything, only further encouraged Real Madrid, especially when they saw Iniesta go down injured almost immediately after and need to be replaced by Sergio Roberto.
Barcelona remain top after the defeat but now with Real Madrid breathing down their necks, just a point behind. The only consolation for their supporters is that they now have their £75m striker on the pitch at last.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Carvjal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Isco, Kroos, Modric, James, Ronaldo, Benzema.
Barcelona: Bravo, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Mathieu, Iniesta, Busquet, Xavi, Suarez, Messi, Neymar.
Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano
Man of the match: Isco (Real Madrid)
Match rating 8/10