Bitter Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona went back and forth for 90-plus minutes inside the Bernabeu on Saturday, but in the end, it was Los Blancos fighting back late to earn a monumental 2-1 victory.
Karim Benzema put Madrid up early with a sixth-minute goal assisted by Morata. Just over 10 minutes later, though, Lionel Messi would finish off a nice through ball from Dani Alves to level the match at one goal apiece heading into halftime.
After a first half that saw zero yellow cards handed out, the cautions began flying fast and furious late in the match, as Pablo Gallego pointed out on Twitter:
Referee giving out Yellow Cards as if they were pieces of candy! #Elclasico— Pablo Gallego (@TheNotoriousGNZ) March 2, 2013
Finally, following 30-plus minutes of scoreless action, Madrid defender Sergio Ramos headed home a fantastic corner from Luka Modric to put his squad ahead, 2-1, in the 82nd minute. The game would end in controversy, however, as Ramos took down Barcelona midfielder Adriano late with a poor challenge. The referee let it go, and Barca's players were furious.
Was Barcelona robbed by the referee?
Goalkeeper Victor Valdes was sent off after receiving a second yellow card during the shouting match with the official.
The win extends Real Madrid's La Liga unbeaten streak at home to 25 matches and serves as another blow to Barca's confidence, which was already shaken coming into this weekend's showdown.
With 68 points through 26 La Liga matches this season, Barcelona is still comfortably ahead of both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, who are 12 and 13 points back, respectively.
Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid: A
In a match that centered on the individual matchup between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid defender Sergio Ramos wound up stealing the show with a late header to give his side the lead.
Ramos was in the right place at the right time and caught Barca's defense sleeping. Although he clearly got away with a foul on Adriano in the match's waning moments, credit him for not giving up and, more importantly, the game-winning goal.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona: B
Messi did his part on Saturday, extending his La Liga goal streak while leveling the match at 1-1 in the first half. But his team lacked its usual punch offensively and once again fell to Madrid.
Most would have loved to see another goal from the world's top player. It may not be fair, but as someone who receives a ton of credit for Barca's success, it's only right that Messi take a majority of the blame for this 2-1 defeat.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid: A
Ronaldo only received a little over a half hour of playing time in Saturday's match, coming on late to replace Karim Benzema at forward (via Melissa Reddy):
Cristiano has finally entered the fray. Now, it's a proper #ElClasico.— Melissa Reddy (@1stLadyOfFooty) March 2, 2013
Still, Jose Mourinho brought Ronaldo onto the pitch late for one reason: To score the game-winner or at least contribute to it. And just as expected, Ronaldo applied a good bit of pressure on his opponent (via FOX Sports Football):
OOF! Some hit from Ronaldo on that free kick. Well saved by Valdes. #ElClasico— FOX SPORTS Football (@FOXFootballLive) March 2, 2013
Ronaldo didn't score or assist, but he was productive in his limited time on the pitch. That's just what Mourinho and Madrid fans everywhere were looking for.
Andres Iniesta, Barcelona: B
Another match, another fine performance from Andres Iniesta. The crafty midfielder was once again a magnificent leader of Barca's short-passing, possession game, always looking to be in control of the ball and never flustered.
Although Barca didn't generate a whole lot of chances on Saturday, Iniesta's calming influence on the road was noticeable.
Karim Benzema, Real Madrid: A
Benzema played an awesome match on Saturday, putting Madrid ahead early on with a beautiful sixth-minute strike that Victor Valdes probably should have reacted to much quicker.
He wasn't afforded a whole lot of time to get an attack started in the second half after being subbed out, but there's certainly an argument as to how important Benzema was for Madrid on Saturday. Without his performance at the top of the lineup, perhaps Los Blancos would have come away with only a point, or worse, empty-handed.
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