Real Madrid claimed a tight 2-1 win over arch-rivals Barcelona on Saturday night to hand their hopes of retaining the La Liga title a massive boost.
After securing a 3-1 win at Camp Nou in the reverse fixture earlier this season, Real Madrid were pursuing their first La Liga double over Barcelona since the 2007/08 campaign.
Ahead of the kick-off, Los Blancos were sitting three points adrift of top-placed Atletico Madrid and two behind Barca.
Zinedine Zidane’s men have regained the top place in the standings for the first time since the beginning of the season, at least until Atletico’s game against Real Betis tomorrow.
Who else but Karim Benzema to break the deadlock at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium, with the Frencham flicking a breathtaking backheel past Marc-Andre ter Stegen 13 minutes into the match.
Toni Kroos was lucky to see his free-kick effort take a couple of deflections and go past the German keeper to double Madrid’s lead on the stroke of the half-hour mark.
The hosts nearly took their advantage to three, but Federico Valverde’s well-struck attempt rattled off the right post in the 34th minute.
Barcelona themselves hit the woodwork in the first half as Lionel Messi tried to slot the ball past Thibaut Courtois directly from a corner kick.
The Argentine came close to pulling one back for the Catalans in the final moments of the first half but failed to score from point-blank range.
Although Real Madrid had better chances at the beginning of the second half, the visitors were first to get on the scoresheet after the interval.
Oscar Mingueza was the one to latch onto Jordi Alba’s perfect delivery and bring Ronald Koeman’s side back into the game.
Since Mingueza’s strike, the encounter went into overdrive, with hectic end-to-end action seeing both sides create plenty of scoring chances.
A highly tense second-half culminated in the dying moments of the match as Casemiro picked up two yellow cards in quick succession, leaving his teammates high and dry in the final.
The Brazilian gifted Messi a free-kick from a promising position, but the six-time Ballon d’Or winner lost that duel to Courtois.
La Masia graduate Ilaix Moriba came agonizingly close to leveling the score in the final seconds, but his powerful half-volley smashed against the crossbar.
In the end, the Catalan powerhouse paid the ultimate price for Koeman’s cautious approach.
It was Barcelona’s first La Liga defeat after 19 games (W16, D3), while Real Madrid stretched their winning league streak to four fixtures.