Madrid beats Barca for 2nd time in 5 days, 2-1

Real Madrid beat Barcelona for the second time in five days, a

2-1 win Saturday that will do little to prevent its rival from

reclaiming the Spanish league title but could boost coach Jose

Mourinho’s team ahead of its Champions League match at Manchester

United.

Sergio Ramos scored the tiebreaking goal on a header off Luka

Modric’s corner kick in the 82nd minute, and a contentious second

half ended with Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes receiving two

yellow cards after the final whistle for arguing with the

referee.

”We deserved to win. The team has been strengthened by these

clasico matches,” Ramos said. ”We are going to Manchester

convinced, but with respect for our opponent.”

Karim Benzema put Real Madrid ahead in the sixth minute off a

cross from 20-year-old Alvaro Morata, but Lionel Messi tied the

score in the 18th following a pass from Daniel Alves, reaching 50

goals for the third straight season and extending his record La

Liga scoring streak to 16 games. With his 18th goal in the clasico

rivalry, Messi tied the record set by Real’s Alfredo Di Stefano in

the 1950s and `60s.

Ramos scored when he outjumped Gerard Pique for the header at

the 6-yard box, helping Madrid to its first home league win over

Barcelona since 2008.

During a chippy ending, Ronaldo hit a post with a free kick in

the 88th minute, and referee Miguel Angel Perez Lasa didn’t call a

foul on Ramos’ trip of Adriano in the penalty area during the third

and final minute of stoppage time, prompting vehement arguments

from Barcelona players.

Defending Spanish league champion Real Madrid (17-5-4) pulled

within 13 points of first-place Barcelona (22-2-2) and within one

point of second-place Atletico Madrid (18-5-2). Real won 3-1 at

Barcelona on Tuesday to advance on 4-2 aggregate to the Copa del

Rey final against Atletico.

After a 31-3-5 start in all competitions, Barcelona has lost

three of its last four games, including a 2-0 defeat at AC Milan in

the first leg of its Champions League round-of-16 matchup.

Barcelona hosts the second leg of the total-goals series on March

12.

Barcelona’s slide has coincided with the absence of first-year

coach Tito Vilanova, who has been in New York for medical treatment

since late January following an operation in Spain to remove a

tumor from his saliva gland.

”It’s impossible to keep up the same level of play for 12

months,” Pique said. ”But it is true that we have played three or

four bad games, and that is serious because Barcelona always has to

win. But this team will turn things around. I believe that because

this is the best team I have ever played on. I’m surprised so many

people have already jumped off the bandwagon.”

Real Madrid started Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench and inserted

the star forward in the 58th minute, wanting to keep him fresh for

Tuesday’s game at Manchester United. The teams tied 1-1 in Madrid

in the first leg of their second-round matchup on Feb. 13.