Barcelona kept the Spanish Primera Division wide open with a 3-1 win over their fiercest rivals Real Madrid in El Clasico at the Bernabeu.
Goals from Alexis Sanchez, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas won the game for Barca while Karim Benzema scored Madrid’s only goal; Barcelona are now favourites to win the league at Betfair.com as they go top of the table on the head-to-head rule.
Real Madrid went into the game three points ahead of Barcelona, with a game in hand as well as being the better form team but the current champions put their poor away from aside to score two second half goals to kill the game.
Real Madrid were favourites to win this leg of El Clasico for the first time in a long time against Pep Guardiola’s Barca and it looked like everything would go their way when they got off to a dream start and went 1-0 up within the first minute.
It only took 23 seconds before they were on the score sheet as Victor Valdes overplayed the ball at the back and gave it straight to Angel Di Maria whose pass/shot came back to Mesut Ozil who shot similarly found Benzema, and the French striker finished from close range.
Lionel Messi had the chance to equalise just six minutes later but Iker Casillas pulled off a brilliant save after Messi had beaten Sergio Ramos to ghost into the box.
Barcelona were level just before the half hour mark after Messi’s run into the Madrid half beat a handful of Real defenders before his pass released Sanchez whose low powerful right-footed shot beat Casillas from just outside the box to nestle in the bottom corner of the net.
Barcelona were truly back in the game after that and seven minutes into the second half the champions were in front for the first time, thanks to a little bit of good fortune.
Xavi’s speculative shot from outside the box looked to be covered by Casillas until it took a wicked deflection off defender Marcelo and awkwardly bounced past the Spanish ‘keeper and into the back of the net to make it 2-1 to Barcelona.
Cristiano Ronaldo had a golden chance to equalise in the 64th minute when Xavi Alonso’s pinpoint cross from the right of the box found the Portuguese winger unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box but his free header somehow went wide of the target.
Ronaldo was forced to pay for his profligacy just a minute later when an excellent passing move by Barcelona culminated in Cesc Fabregas getting on the end of Dani Alves’ cross to head home the third goal for Barcelona.
Fabregas’ goal killed the game for Real Madrid who were deflated after going two goals down with Barcelona passing the ball around them imperiously.
The game ended 3-1 to Barcelona and Guardiola’s side will leave for the Club World Championships in Japan in the best position possible on top of the league.
Levante displayed some of the form that saw them perform so well earlier in the season with a 1-0 win over 5th place Sevilla after a goal from defender Nano was enough to seal victory for the home side.
Levante are only one point behind Valencia now, as Unai Emery’s side showed a slight Champions League hangover after going out to Chelsea on Tuesday when they lost 2-1 away to a struggling Real Betis side, who hadn’t won in 10 games.
Valencia took the lead in the 65th minute when Jose Dorado put the ball into his own net, but two late goals from Ruben Castro in the 90th and 93rd minute sealed Betis’ first victory since September.
It was a low-scoring Sunday in Spain as Bilbao and Racing Santander, Malaga and Osasuna, and Villareal and Real Sociedad all played out 1-1 draws.
Espanyol beat Atletico Madrid 4-2 at home thanks to a brace each from Joan Verdu and Romaric while Falcao and Arda Turan got the away side’s goals.
Bottom place Real Zaragoza lost 1-0 to Mallorca while Sporting Gijon picked up a surprise 3-1 win away to Rayo Vallecano after two goals from Nacho Novo and one from David Barral sealed the win before a consolation goal from Michu; Getafe beat Granada 1-0 thanks to a goal Javier Casquero.