Barcelona wins the Clasico against Real Madrid to clinch the title

The result dashes Madrid’s title hopes and puts the Catalans on the verge of lifting the trophy for the first time since 2019.

BARCELONA – Barcelona moved 12 points clear at the top of La Liga with a 2-1 Clasico triumph over Real Madrid on Sunday, thanks to Franck Kessie’s late goal.

The result dashes Madrid’s title hopes and puts the Catalans on the verge of lifting the trophy for the first time since 2019.

Real Madrid took the lead thanks to a Ronald Araujo own goal, but Barcelona equalized shortly before halftime when Sergi Roberto tucked home.

Both teams had chances to win the game, and Madrid’s Marco Asensio scored, but VAR ruled it offside before Alejandro Balde set up Kessie in the 92nd minute.

Barcelona’s corruption charge in the “Caso Negreira” officiating scandal overshadowed the build-up to the match. This week, Madrid joined the Spanish prosecutors’ complaint against Barcelona, and their president Florentino Perez shunned the game for the first time in more than 20 years, amid escalating tensions between the two Spanish heavyweights.

That increased the tension of the game, both on and off the field, in Xavi’s sixth Clasico as Barcelona coach, but just his first at Camp Nou. Xavi challenged fans to turn the stadium into a pressure cooker, and they delivered, selling out, whistling Madrid in possession, and creating one of the finest atmospheres of the season.

Madrid did not register a single shot on target in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Barcelona earlier in March, but Karim Benzema stung Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s hands inside the opening minute.

At the other end, Robert Lewandowski put Thibaut Courtois to the test as the veteran marksmen exchanged shots. It was friendly fire that led to Barcelona’s first goal of the game. Ter Stegen was powerless as Araujo deflected Vinicius’ cross in at the near post. Araujo, who was playing at right-back to counteract the Brazilian, has previously relished duels with Vinicius, but this time the winger triumphed, albeit fortuitously.

Barcelona fans were furious at his raucous celebration in front of them. It was the first goal scored from open play at Camp Nou in La Liga this season and only the second strike at home and ninth overall. Courtois, who had earlier saved an early Raphinha header, could only watch as Andreas Christensen met another unmarked cross but nodded wide.

The Danish center-back went close again with a flicked corner effort before Courtois pushed over another stinging Raphinha drive, the Brazilian in overdrive on the right in the absence of Ousmane Dembele. Barcelona claimed that defender Nacho, who had previously been booked, should have been sent off for a handball on Raphinha.

The hosts did not get their way, but they were gaining momentum and found a breakthrough right before halftime from an unexpected source. Sergio Roberto, who was substituted for injured midfielder Pedri, was in the right place at the right moment to control a loose ball in the box and arc it past Courtois.

Barcelona had substantially more possession and chances than in their cup triumph over Madrid. As Madrid wobbled, Lewandowski blasted a deflected piledriver narrowly wide, leading Carlo Ancelotti to take a chance and bring on Rodrigo and Ferland Mendy. As Madrid robbed Sergio Busquets and Rodrygo lashed inches over the bar, it almost immediately paid off.

Madrid substitute Asensio scored what appeared to be the game-winning goal, but it was called out for offside following a tense wait for VAR instruction. Barcelona appeared pleased with a point, but Kessie’s last-gasp goal elicited frenzied celebrations at Camp Nou.

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