Karim Benzema, Federico Valverde, and Rodrygo scored as Real Madrid defeated Barcelona 3-1 at home in ‘El Clasico’ on Sunday to move into first place in LaLiga.
Real Madrid are now in first place with 25 points, three more than Barcelona.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti stated on the day of the match that he would not re-invent the wheel in an effort to prevent a recurrence of March, when he started midfielder Luka Modric up front and was subsequently beaten 4-0 by Barcelona.
There were no surprises in his roster, as he left the creativity to his Barcelona opponent, Xavi.
He left midfielder Gavi on the bench and, knowing of the threat Vinicius Jr posed from the left wing, opted to start right-back Sergi Roberto and rush-back defender Jules Kunde, who has been recovering from a hamstring injury, to cover the Brazilian.
The tactic did not pay off for the visitors, as Vinicius was a strong force on that flank and frequently ran down the left channel unimpeded.
Barca had no response for Real Madrid’s Vinicius’s unrelenting speed and Toni Kroos’s accurate passes, who created numerous opportunities, including the opening two goals.
After goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen stopped Vinicius from close range in the 12th minute, the pair linked with one-touch passes to set up Benzema’s opening goal, with the France striker finishing into an empty net after a rebound.
Vinicius took advantage of a mistake by defender Eric Garcia to move into the penalty area and create space for Valverde, who, unmarked on the edge of the box, fired a bullet shot past the goalkeeper ten minutes before halftime.
Except for two early goals by Frenkie de Jong and Raphinha, Real Madrid’s opponents were lifeless until the penultimate minute, when substitute Ferran Torres scored a close-range goal into an empty net after a low cross by Robert Lewandowski.
However, substitute Rodrygo scored from the penalty spot in extra time when Garcia fouled him inside the penalty area.
The referee initially did not call the foul, but after being informed by VAR and reviewing the footage, he awarded Real the penalty.