Neymar leads Barcelona to 2-1 win over Madrid
Neymar scored in his first clasico and set up Alexis Sanchez for
an exquisite decider as Barcelona beat fierce rival Real Madrid 2-1
at Camp Nou in the Spanish league on Saturday.
With Lionel Messi oddly quiet, Neymar opened in the 19th minute
from close range after receiving Andres Iniesta’s pass as the
Brazil striker outshone fellow newcomer and adversary Gareth
”Scoring a goal in a clasico is very special,” Neymar said.
”It’s a game that everyone wants to play. It was like a dream come
While Neymar has lived up to his 57-million-euro transfer this
summer, questions over the wisdom of Madrid’s 100 million euros
payout for Bale will continue after he failed to produce a shot on
goal before being replaced by Karim Benzema with half an hour to
Benzema went on to hit the woodwork as Madrid threatened to
equalize before Alexis took Neymar’s pass and sealed the victory in
the 78th with a brilliant chipped shot.
Substitute Jese Rodriguez got Madrid’s consolation goal in
injury time after a lightning counterattack.
Neymar followed in the footsteps of former Brazilian standouts
Romario and Rivaldo, who scored in their first matches for the
Catalan club against Madrid. And his playmaking echoed Ronaldinho’s
assist in his first clasico.
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino, also making his clasico debut,
was careful not to overpraise Neymar, while also giving credit to
Messi for his work in defense.
”The transcendence of this game and the goal he scored
magnified the level of his performance,” Martino said about
Neymar. ”But I think he has had better games than tonight. As far
as what (Messi) did for the team to recover the ball, I give him a
Also, Celta emphatically broke a four-game losing streak with a
5-0 rout at Malaga. Levante rolled to a 3-0 win at home over
Espanyol, and Granada won 1-0 at Elche.
Madrid had improved in its recent visits to Camp Nou, including
a 3-1 win in the Copa del Rey last February, but Barcelona restored
its home dominance over its traditional rival for the league
The victory was Barcelona’s ninth to go with one lone draw in
the league this season, lifting it a provisional four points clear
of Atletico Madrid which hosts Real Betis on Sunday.
Madrid was left a full six points adrift of the pacesetters and
with reawakened doubts over the direction of the team under new
coach Carlo Ancelotti after losses to both of its league
challengers. It lost 1-0 to Atletico last month.
”I think we showed good football in front of a fantastic
team,” Ancelotti said after his first clasico. ”At this moment it
was a good test. We are improving.”
Bale made his second start of the season since being hampered by
muscle injuries, but he didn’t prove to be effective in attack with
Ancelotti further tweaked his starting 11 with Sergio Ramos in
midfield, while Martino chose Cesc Fabregas to accompany Messi and
Neymar in attack.
Neymar struck the ball into the arms of Madrid goalkeeper Diego
Lopez in the game’s first shot on goal in the 17th.
Two minutes later, Iniesta dribbled into the area and laid off
for Neymar on the left flank. Madrid appeared to have him hemmed
in, but he used his right foot to slip a shot between the legs of
Dani Carvajal, with the ball taking a deflection off the defender’s
thigh before trickling in.
It was Neymar’s fourth goal in 14 matches since joining from
Santos this offseason.
While Neymar sparkled, Bale was limited to a pair of harmless
long-range attempts as Madrid failed to muster a shot on target
until a minute before halftime.
Madrid gained ground as the second half wore on and Barcelona
appeared to tire, leaving Benzema unmarked to rip a shot off the
woodwork in the 72nd.
But Neymar helped Alexis secure the three points when he spotted
the Chilean’s run after he came on for Fabregas in the 70th.
Alexis pulled up outside the area with Raphael Varane in front
of him and coolly lofted the ball over the defender and the diving
Lopez, who was caught just off his line.
”I didn’t have any other option,” Alexis said. ”I saw the
goalkeeper coming forward and I had to try it. Fortunately it went
Neymar received an ovation when he was substituted six minutes
from time before Rodriguez fired under Victor Valdes, who plans to
leave Barcelona next summer and could have played his last home
game against Madrid unless the teams meet in the Champions League
or Spanish cup.
Before the match, Camp Nou displayed a giant mosaic with the
message ”Forca Tito” (”Stay Strong Tito” in Catalan) in support
of former coach Tito Vilanova, who had to step down this summer as
he fights throat cancer.