Real stun Barca in El Clasico
Ronaldo scores winner to put Real's destiny in their own hands
By Razwan Mirza - Tweet me: @RazMirza. Last Updated: 22/04/12 8:42am
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the winning goal against Barcelona
Real Madrid defeated defending champions Barcelona 2-1 in El Clasico at Camp Nou to open a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga with just four games left.
Sami Khedira put Los Blancos ahead after 17 minutes as Barcelona made a hash of trying to clear a corner.
However, the hosts restored parity as substitute Alexis Sanchez slotted home a scrappy, close-range effort in the 70th minute.
But three minutes later, Cristiano Ronaldo bagged his 54th goal of the season with a clinical finish to give Real a massive boost in the title race.
Barcelona suffered their first defeat in 54 home games and put Madrid on the cusp of breaking the Catalan giants' three-year hold on the Spanish league crown.
After managing only a single win in nine previous games against Barcelona since joining Madrid, coach Jose Mourinho finally guided his team to a long-coveted victory over their fierce rivals on their ground.
Real Madrid started well, with Ronaldo's fourth-minute header forcing Victor Valdes into a full-stretch save and Karim Benzema cutting in from the right and drilling in an effort that the keeper dealt with.
Madrid were enjoying making full use of the Nou Camp's wide pitch and, when Ronaldo burned past Sergio Busquets on the left, the midfielder hauled him down and picked up the game's first booking.
That was indicative of the early promise Real had shown and, with 17 minutes on the clock, they took the lead with their 108th goal of the campaign.
Mesut Ozil's corner found Pepe at the back post and his header was parried by Valdes but, as Carles Puyol struggled to get his legs free to clear, Khedira wrapped his foot around the loose ball to score from two yards.
Replays suggested the ball may have clipped Pepe's arm as he nodded down, but any decision to rule out the strike would have been harsh.
The goal was met with near silence, much like when Xavi missed a wonderful chance to equalise 10 minutes later.
Messi's slide-rule pass put him clear on Iker Casillas' goal, but he could only hit across and wide, rather than under the keeper as was expected.
Swamped whenever they had the ball, Barca resorted to shooting from distance through Thiago, while at the other end Ozil's pace got him clear, with Javier Mascherano's brilliant block halting his run.
Whether directed at half-time by Mourinho or not, Real returned for the second half with the intention of slowing the game down, with a number of players including Pepe and Fabio Coentrao both requiring treatment for what appeared to be innocuous injuries.
Their tactics were frustrating Barcelona, though, who could barely get close to Casillas' goal and, when they did, Tello twice hit wildly over - the second occasion a horrendous spoon that cleared the bar.
But Tello was persistent, and in the 70th minute, he helped Barcelona get level.
The goal had an element of pinball about it, with Casillas denying Tello and Sanchez in quick succession - the second save a wonderful claw-back - before the Chilean eventually bundled in from close range.
But, rather than implode as they have done so often in this fixture over recent years, Real responded with class.
Ozil's ball set Ronaldo racing down the right and past Mascherano, although his 54th goal of the season was made easier by Valdes' decision to race off his line.
Clearly stunned, Barca offered no response of note and it was Real who finished the stronger, with Ronaldo inches away from adding a crowning third in stoppage time.
Spanish Primera BBVA
El Clasico 2012
Iker Casillas has admitted Real Madrid have taken a 'giant step' in landing the Primera Division crown after their 2-1 victory at arch-rivals Barcelona.
El Clasico returns on Saturday evening, and there is plenty riding on the latest meeting between old adversaries Barcelona and Real Madrid.
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