Karim Benzema, Federico Valverde and Rodrygo were all on target as a dominant Real Madrid beat old rivals Barcelona 3-1 at home in ‘El Clasico’ on Sunday to move top of La Liga.
The defeat was another blow to Barca and manager Xavi Hernandez after they were left on the verge of Champions League elimination following a draw with Inter Milan in midweek.
Real are now on top of the standings on 25 points, three ahead of Barca.
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti said on eve of the game that he was not going to reinvent the wheel as he sought to avoid a repeat of the result between the sides in March, when he put midfielder Luka Modric up front only to get hammered 4-0 by the Catalans.
There were no surprises in his line-up as he left it to his Barca counterpart Xavi to get inventive.
He left midfielder Gavi on the bench and, aware of the danger that in-form Vinicius Jr presented from the left wing, decided to start Sergi Roberto as a full-back on the right and rush back defender Jules Kounde, who has recently been nursing a hamstring injury, to cover the Brazilian.
But Barca had no answer to Vinicius Jr’s relentless pace and Toni Kroos’ precise passes for Real and both were the architects of several chances, including the first two goals.
The pair combined with nice one-touch passes in the build-up to Benzema’s opener with the France striker finishing into the empty goal on the rebound, after goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied Vinicius from close range in the 12th minute.
Ten minutes before the break, Vinicius took advantage of a mistake by defender Eric Garcia to run towards the area and create space for Valverde who – unmarked on the edge of the box – slotted a bullet strike past the goalkeeper.
Other than two early strikes by Frenkie de Jong and Raphinha, Real were barely threatened by their opponents until the final minutes, when substitute Ferran Torres reduced the deficit with a close-range strike from Robert Lewandowski’s low cross.
However, Rodrygo secured the points from the penalty spot in added time, after he was tripped inside the area by Garcia.
The referee did not give the foul at first, but was alerted by the VAR and, after checking the video, gave Real the penalty.
“We are delighted not only for the win but for the way we played, it was an amazing afternoon in a packed stadium with our fans creating a fantastic vibe,” Modric told DAZN.
“We knew that there was going to come a time in the match where we were going to have to suffer because they handle the ball well and that is where we have to defend strongly and suffer and we have done it.
“Then we were very strong up front, and we are very happy with the match. We have made a great game today.”
Union outclass Dortmund with Haberer double
Union Berlin‘s Janik Haberer scored twice in 13 minutes as the Bundesliga leaders cruised past Borussia Dortmund 2-0 on Sunday to open up a five-point gap at the top of the league table.
Haberer first pounced when Dortmund keeper Gregor Kobel miskicked the ball, to tap in from close range in the eighth minute and then drilled in another with a powerful shot from the edge the box in the 21st minute.
Dortmund’s backline was leaking like a sieve in the first half and the visitors were lucky to go into the break with just a two-goal deficit as Union’s Sheraldo Becker wreaked havoc down the wing.
They improved after the break and Kobel redeemed himself for his first-half error with a full-stretch save to stop a Timo Baumgartl header but they completely lacked ideas in attack to threaten the hosts.
The win put leaders Union, who have the league’s best defence, on 23 points, five ahead of Freiburg who have 18 and face Bayern Munich, on 16, later on Sunday.
Dortmund’s fourth league loss of the season saw them drop to eighth on 16.
Unstoppable Napoli back on top with win over Bologna
Napoli returned to the top of Serie A after beating Bologna 3-2 thanks to a late Victor Osimhen goal on Sunday to lead the table by two points although the visitors made them fight for the win.
Napoli now have 10 wins in a row in all competitions and are on top of the table with 26 points after 10 games just ahead of Atalanta, with Lazio and Udinese level on 21 points.
Bologna striker Joshua Zirkzee opened the scoring in the 41st minute when he received a pass from Andrea Cambiaso inside the box and fired into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
But the lead did not last long as Juan Jesus equalised four minutes later at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
Both teams played an intense second half, with Hirving Lozano putting the hosts ahead in the 49th minute. Musa Barrow equalised two minutes after that with a shot from a distance that Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret fumbled into the goal.
Substitute Osimhen got what proved to be the winner in the 69th minute when he collected a through ball from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and elegantly lobbed keeper Lukasz Skorupski.
Goals by striker Lautaro Martinez and midfielder Nicolo Barella helped Inter Milan ease to a comfortable 2-0 home win over Salernitana.
Inter, last season’s runners-up, moved up one place to seventh in the standings on 18 points. They are one point behind AS Roma and two adrift of fifth-placed AC Milan who have a game in hand and play at Verona later on Sunday.
Inter opened the scoring in the 14th minute through Lautaro, who lashed a shot from outside the box and the ball bounced in front of Salernitana keeper Luigi Sepe before finding the bottom corner.
Barella doubled the hosts’ advantage at the San Siro in the 58th minute, controlling the ball superbly in the box and placing a shot into the bottom right corner.
Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri said the bad condition of the pitch at the Stadio Olimpico played a significant role in the 0-0 draw against visiting Udinese.
Lazio had won their previous four league matches, scoring 14 goals with none conceded, but fired blanks against Udinese.
“The team did try, but we were up against the worst possible opponents today, a really physical and fresh side when we played three games in seven days. If you then play on this turf, that becomes a big problem, Sarri told DAZN.
“I am a coach who wants his teams to make 700 passes to feet in every game, I am not suited to this type of pitch, so if this remains the pitch, the club should think of someone else.”