Real Madrid edged an exhilarating Clasico encounter to claim a 2-1 win over Barcelona and move ahead of Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Just two points divided the two rivals before kick off with Atleti’s recent stuttering form allowing Barca and Real Madrid to make up ground, but it was the former who gave their championship chances a serious boost.
It took Real Madrid just 13 minutes to break the deadlock with Benzema flicking home a wonderful finish following a counter attacking move that involved Fede Valverde and Lucaz Vazquez down the right wing.
And the hosts doubled their advantage before the half hour mark when a Toni Kroos freekick from the edge of the penalty area was deflected off Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba on its win into the net.
Valverde came close to scoring a third, smashing a strike off the inside of the far post, before Lionel Messi also struck the woodwork straight from a corner kick that looped over Thibaut Courtois.
Torrential rain made the second half challenging for both sides, but Barcelona gained a foothold in the match through Oscar Mingueza who diverted a Alba cross from the byline into the net off his shin.
Real Madrid struck the woodwork once more via a deflection off Mingueza while Casemiro was shown two quickfire yellow cards as Barca pressed for an equaliser that ultimately never came, although Ilaix Moriba struck the bar with the final chance.
The result sees Real Madrid draw level with Atletico Madrid on points in the table with their superior head-to-head record moving them top. Barca, however, remain one point off the pace.
TALKING POINT – REAL MADRID ONCE AGAIN PERFORMING WHEN IT MATTERS MOST
Not so long ago, Real Madrid’s season seemed to be unravelling. Now, though, they are sitting top of La Liga and are well-placed to make the semi finals of the Champions League. Zidane’s side have a knack for finding form at the right time, performing when it matters most.
This could prove to be a season-defining week for Los Blancos who have underlined their credentials with impressive wins over Liverpool and Barcelona. Never discount Real Madrid when it comes to challenging for trophies.
MAN OF THE MATCH – TONI KROOS (REAL MADRID)
What a week for Kroos. First, the German was the orchestrator of Real Madrid’s 3-1 Champions League quarter final win over Liverpool. Then he followed that up without another exceptional performance in a Clasico win over Barcelona.
When Kroos plays well, Real Madrid play well. Benzema and Vinicius also impressed for Los Blancos, but it was the 31-year-old pace-setter who made the difference in the centre of the pitch.
Real Madrid – Courtois 8, Vazquez 6, Militao 7, Nacho 7, Mendy 4, Modric 6, Casemiro 6, Kroos 8, Valverde 8, Benzema 7, Vinicius 8. Subs – Marcelo 5, Isco 5, Asensio 6, Mariano 4, Odriozola 5.
Barcelona – Ter Stegen 6, Mingueza 8, Araujo 6, Lenglet 5, Dest 4, Busquets 5, Pedri 5, De Jong 6, Alba 6, Messi 6, Dembele 6. Subs – Roberto 5, Braithwaite 4, Trincao 4, Griezmann 6, Ilaix 6.
13’ GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Barcelona: Benzema finds the back of the net and Real Madrid have the advantage in El Clasico! Valverde surged through the midfield, fed the pass out to Vazquez, he picked out Benzema in the middle and the Frenchman flicked home a finish!
28’ GOAL! Real Madrid 2-0 Barcelona: It’s a second Real Madrid goal and Kroos is the one who has found the back of the net! The German’s freekick right on the edge of the box was a good one, but it was two deflections that took it past ter Stegen! Los Blancos cruising!
35’ Off the post! Inches away from being a third Real Madrid goal! The hosts come flying forward on the counter attack, Valverde smashes his strike off the far post and Modric has his shot blocked!
60’ GOAL! Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona: Barcelona have a foothold in this match and it’s an unlikely scorer – Mingueza! Alba got down the left side, played a ball into the middle and the young defender found the back of the Real Madrid net with a scuffed finish off his shin!
63’ Off the base of the post! Vinicius drives at his man inside the box, creates the space for the cross, but his ball picks up a deflection off Mingueza and bounces off the base of the post!
90’ SENT OFF! Casemiro has been shown two quickfire yellow cards and Real Madrid will be down to 10 men for the final few minutes of this match. Can they get over the line?
90+4’ OFF THE BAR! Incredible drama right at the death! Ter Stegen came up for a freekick, the ball fell to Ilaix inside the area, but the young midfielder smashed a strike off the crossbar!
Real Madrid scored against Barcelona with their first two shots on target of the match while Barcelona didn’t have a shot on target until the 25th minute.
Karim Benzema has now scored in each of his last seven La Liga games.This is the first time since the 2007/08 season that Real Madrid have won both league Clasicos against Barcelona in a season.