Real Madrid beat Barcelona to take La Liga lead | Football News

The Benzema winner takes Real Madrid to the top of the Spanish soccer league with city rivals Atletico playing on Sunday.

Real Madrid rose to the top of La Liga after Karim Benzema managed to secure a thrilling 2-1 win over Barcelona in a wild Clasico at Valdebebas.

Benzema’s superb skill and a deflected free-kick from Toni Kroos put Madrid in the driver’s seat and while Oscar Mingueza pulled one away for Barca, they fell to win in what could be Lionel Messi’s last appearance in this match.

Saturday’s win means Real Madrid go tied on points with Atletico, but lead the table with superior head-to-head results.

The three are now separated by a single point.

Atletico, without injured Luis Suarez, will face Real Betis on Sunday.

As Atletico stumbles and Barca and Real Madrid hit their stride, this game looked set to define, if not the title, which would then become favorites to be crowned champions in May.

Argentina Barcelona striker Lionel Messi failed to score in his seventh consecutive Clasico [AFP]

The result was an exciting competition in a rain-soaked Alfredo di Stefano stadium which saw both teams squander many chances, several efforts returned to the woodwork and Casemiro was sent off in extra time.

With the last play of the game, Barcelona substitute Ilaix Moriba shook Real Madrid’s crossbar.

“We’re still there,” Barca coach Ronald Koeman said. “We lost a game to a team that is also fighting for the league, but we have eight games left and we will fight to the end.”

Casemiro’s red card had also given Messi a free kick and the possibility of a dramatic equalizer, but instead the Argentine has gone seven games now scoreless against Real Madrid, with many wondering if his 45th Clasico will be his last.

Messi could still turn the tide in the remaining eight games, but there is no doubt that Madrid are in the groove after beating Liverpool 3-1 on Tuesday with another crucial victory.

They can finish the Champions League job at Anfield next week although manager Zinedine Zidane has later admitted his players are “physically at their limit”.

“It was a tough game, the first half was ours, but we suffered in the second,” said Zidane. “We deserved the win because we had a lot of chances to score the third.

Spanish referee Jesus Gil Manzano shows a red card to Brazilian Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro [Javier Soriano/AFP]

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