Barcelona celebrated an El Clasico league double over arch rivals Real Madrid following a 3-4 win at the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to a Lionel Messi hattrick in a match that also included a red card for Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.
The Catalan giants opened the scoring after just six minutes when a neat pass from Lionel Messi 20 yards out found Andres Iniesta who lost his marker Daniel Carvajal before firing a powerful shot past Diego Lopez, off the underside of the bar, and into the back of the net for 0-1.
Real levelled the scores soon after though. On the 20 minute mark, a left sided flighted ball from one of Madrid’s top performers on the night Angel Di Maria, was powerfully converted by the head of Karim Benzema. Victor Valdes got a hand to it but it wasn’t convincing enough and the scores were levelled.
Madrid’s modern day Galacticos didn’t waste any time in getting their second of the match either, Benzema doubling his tally just three minutes later. It was Di Maria who provided the assist again. His cross was missed horribly by Javier Mascherano and the ball landed at Benzema who took a touch before blasting it past Valdes.
Barcelona dragged it back to 2-2 before the half time whistle and it was that man Lionel Messi with the goal. The Argentine teed up Neymar who returned it to Messi to tie the game up again. Just in the nick of time as well with Real Madrid defender closing in
The second half started as lively as the opening 45 but this time the hosts scored first. Madrid’s third goal came shortly after Benzema was denied his hattrick by a smart reaction stop by Valdes from point blank range. Barca cried foul play after Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo was tripped by Daniel Alves and a penalty was awarded. Television replays showed that the powerful Portuguese was brought down outside the area though. The ex-Manchester United forward converted to Valdes’ right.
La Liga holders Barcelona were awarded a penalty of their own when Neymar was tripped, inside the area, by Sergio Ramos, who was sent off for his troubles with a straight red card for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity, a great decision by the referee in the circumstances, knowing the reputation of a hostile El Clasico crowd. Messi equalized with a perfect penalty to Lopez’s left.
Lionel Messi completed his hattrick with his second, and the match’s third penalty. It was Iniesta this time who was fouled, being sandwiched in between Xabi Alonso and Carvajal with Alonso committing the foul with an uncharacteristic error. Messi the magician was on task to complete the comeback to make it 3-4 to the visitors and ensure that Barcelona closed the gap on Madrid rivals Atletico and Real to one point in what promises to be the most exciting La Liga title race in years.