Barcelona have taken a gigantic step towards their first La Liga title since 2019 thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 comeback win in El Clásico against Real Madrid to increase their advantage at the top of the table to 12 points with 12 matches to go entering the final international break of the season. Barça were the better team on the night but went down early and had to show massive fighting spirit to come from behind and deliver what feels like a knockout blow to their biggest rivals in the title race.
The opening 10 minutes of this one were absolutely chaotic, with Madrid firing a shot on target after just 45 seconds followed by three big Barça chances before the sixth minute and a completely accidental opening goal by Madrid when Vinicius Junior’s attempted cross inside the box hit Ronald Araujo’s head and went into the net for an own goal.
After a wild start Barça found themselves behind but didn’t lose their composure and began blitzing the Madrid defense with one dangerous attack after another, and Thibaut Courtois was forced into making a few big saves to keep his team in front.
Barça pressed high and recovered the ball time and time again, and Madrid had to resort to some very physical play to slow the pace down and try to preserve their lead before the halftime whistle.
It seemed Los Blancos were going to survive the Barça pressure and take a valuable lead into the break, but the Blaugrana never gave up and finally got their just reward: after a shot from Raphinha was blocked inside the box the rebound fell to Sergi Roberto, who took his time and found the back of the net with an excellent finish to score the equalizer and give Barça all the momentum.
At halftime the home team was by far the better side but the score was somehow tied, and things were beautifully poised going into the second half.
The second half was very difficult to watch from an entertainment perspective as neither team could string together meaningful sequences and there were constant stoppages in play for fouls.
Both teams were more physical than creative, but Barça did come close twice on shots from Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha while Madrid had a couple of half-chances on the counter that never troubled Marc-André ter Stegen.
It seemed like we were headed for a draw entering the final 10 minutes, but Madrid finally found a way to breach the Barça defense on the counter and Dani Carvajal’s cross found Marco Asensio inside the box for a tap-in to put the visitors ahead. But after a lengthy VAR review, the goal was ruled out for a very tight offside on Asensio and Barça dodged a massive bullet ahead of the dying seconds.
Madrid badly needed the win and were the aggressors at the end of the game, sending plenty of bodies forward and looking for a late winner that would count this time. But their desperate late surge left spaces in behind, which Barça explored in a huge way: a quick counter-attack led to a great pass from Lewandowski to find Alejandro Balde all alone on the left wing, and the full-back made a perfect low cross to Franck Kessie who completed the comeback and put Barça ahead at the death.
The final whistle came shortly after, and Barça are officially the title favorites after this one. La Liga isn’t over yet, but it damn sure feels like it and Barça earned this victory by being the better team and wanting it more than Madrid on the night. A third straight Clásico win in 2023 and certainly one of Barça’s biggest victories in this rivalry in many, many years. Well done, boys.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Araujo, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; Roberto (Kessie 77’), Busquets, De Jong; Raphinha (Ferran 83’), Lewandowski, Gavi (Fati 90+1’)
Goals: Roberto (45’), Kessie (90+2’)
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Militão, Rüdiger, Nacho (Mendy 62’); Camavinga (Tchouaméni 76’), Kroos (Rodrygo 62’); Valverde (Asensio 77’), Modric (Ceballos 77’), Vinicius; Benzema
Goal: Araujo (OG 9’)