Barcelona’s El Clasico win surely decided the LaLiga race, Real Madrid must regroup


Franck Kessie scored a stoppage-time winner as Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-1 at Camp Nou on Sunday to edge closer to a first LaLiga title since 2019.

Kessie turned home at the far post after good work from Robert Lewandowski and Alejandro Balde to allow Barca to open up a 12-point lead over their Clasico rivals at the top of the table.

Madrid had earlier taken the lead in the ninth minute through a Ronald Araujo own goal, with Sergi Roberto drawing Barca level just before the break. Marco Asensio had a goal ruled out for Madrid late on for offside before substitute Kessie struck to the delight of the 95,000-strong crowd.

With the win, Barcelona moved 12 points clear of second-place Real Madrid at the top of the LaLiga table.

Rapid reaction

1. Barcelona celebrate El Clasico win like the LaLiga title is theirs now

Barcelona have not won the LaLiga title yet, but it sure felt like it after Kessie’s late goal.

At the full-time whistle, the Barcelona players huddled in the middle of the pitch before celebrating with fans behind the goal. Manager Xavi Hernandez’s side are now 12 points clear of Madrid with 12 games to play. To put that lead into context, Barca have dropped only 10 points all season.

This game could not have been any different to the cagey Copa del Rey meeting between these sides two weeks ago, when Barca won 1-0. Here, both sides created a thrilling finale as they went for the win in an encounter filled with chances for both teams.

Barca will feel they had the better of the chances. Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha both came close on more than one occasion, with Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois making several important saves for his side. However, once the game opened up in the second half, Madrid had their moments.

Madrid’s Rodrygo Goes should have done better when gifted the ball in the box, and chances came and went for Karim Benzema either side of Asensio’s disallowed goal. Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid side were caught out at the back, though, as they chased the goal.

Real Madrid could’ve moved within six points of Barcelona on the LaLiga table. Now, instead, the gap widens to 12.

2. Raphinha-led Barca make it three wins in a row against Madrid

For the first time since the 2011-12 season under Pep Guardiola, Barca have won three in a row against Madrid in all competitions: one in the Super Cup, one in the Copa del Rey and now this one in LaLiga.

Barcelona have also won four of the past five under Xavi. This was a first Clasico victory at Camp Nou, though, in a staggering 1,603 days, dating back to a 5-1 win in 2018, a run spanning three winless games.

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Kessie’s goal will rightly be the moment for which the game is remembered, a thrilling stoppage-time winner — but this felt like a big performance from Raphinha.

Although the Brazilian was not directly involved in either of the goals, Raphinha was brilliant on the right of Barca’s attack, both with and without the ball. Nacho Fernandez could not deal with him.

3. Madrid are left to seek their revenge in Copa del Rey

Madrid will lament football’s fine margins.

It took several minutes for VAR to decide that Asensio was offside when Rodrygo passed the ball. If the goal had stood, we would be talking about the title race being brought back to life in Spain. Instead, Ancelotti’s team will turn their attention to other competitions after seeing a league-high eighth goal overturned by VAR.

Madrid will be back at Camp Nou on April 5 for the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal (live on ESPN+). Madrid trail 1-0 from the reverse fixture, but this late defeat will provide extra motivation. Los Blancos remain in the Champions League, too, with a quarterfinal against Chelsea coming up after the international break.

Best and worst performers

Best: Raphinha, Barcelona

Tireless with and without the ball in his best performance in a Barca shirt.

Best: Franck Kessie, Barcelona

Scored a goal that will probably be remembered as the one that won the title.

Best: Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid

Made several good stops but could not prevent his side falling to defeat.

Worst: Nacho Fernandez, Real Madrid

Filled in at left-back, where he struggled to deal with Raphinha and Araujo. Booked for a foul on the latter and was taken off on the hour mark to avoid the risk of a second yellow.

Worst: Ferland Mendy, Real Madrid

The Frenchman replaced Nacho for the goal but didn’t fare much better and was missing for Kessie’s winner.

Worst: Sergio Busquets, Barcelona

Was not all bad but made too many errors. Was lucky one misplaced pass didn’t end in a Rodrygo goal.

Highlights and notable moments

Real Madrid surprisingly took the lead inside of nine minutes with a strange deflection resulting in an own goal from Barcelona.

Vinicius Junior attempted to flick a cross past into the box, but it knocked off Barca defender Ronald Araujo, who didn’t know much about it, and into the goal.

The match appeared to be headed for halftime with Real Madrid ahead, but Barcelona scored a crucial equaliser just before the break. Raphinha had a shot blocked, but Sergi Roberto tried his luck with the rebound and into the net it went.

That goal was crucial for the home side’s chances: Barcelona have won only once this season when trailing at halftime compared to seven wins when tied at halftime.

Real Madrid had a would-be goal from Marco Asensio overturned by VAR in the 82nd minute after he was determined to be barely offside.

So the match came down to Franck Kessie, who scored just as the clock stuck 91 minutes in stoppage time by putting away a cross by Alejandro Balde.

After the match: What the managers and players said

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on whether the LaLiga title race is over: “Yes, we have to be honest. We wanted to fight until the end but now it’s four games’ difference. We still have the goal difference but they’d have to lose four games and we’d have to win all of them. Nothing is impossible but it’s very difficult. We’ll have to come here and win in the Copa.”

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti on why his team went from +3 points on the LaLiga table over Barcelona to -12 after two Clasicos: “Barcelona have been more consistent than us.”

Ancelotti on the LaLiga race and other hardware this season: “We’ll fight until the end, we’re at a disadvantage but we won’t think about that, we’re sad about the loss but our morale is good, the team played well, we’ll fight for everything, we’re in three competitions and we’ll give our all. If we play like that, we’ll win something.”

Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez on whether the LaLiga title race is over: “It’s not definitive, I don’t feel like we are champions yet, but it’s a huge step forward. I am happy because it’s 12 points with 12 games left, but it’s not over. We have only dropped 10 points in LaLiga, though. I don’t think that is spoken about enough. I don’t think enough value is given to what the players are doing. They have been extraordinary in LaLiga. The players are delighted. Last season we were 12 points behind. We were three behind when we lost the Clasico in October. That’s a 15-point swing. But we have only won the Super Cup so far. Only we can lose LaLiga, so we cannot switch off. We cannot relax. There are still a lot of games to go.”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

  • This is Barcelona’s 100th win in El Clasico in all competitions. Real Madrid has 101, and there have been 52 draws.

  • Real Madrid have had a league-high 15 VAR decisions and eight goals overturned this season. The next closest teams in LaLiga by goals overturned are Atletico Madrid and Valencia with three goals overruled each.

  • Furthermore, Real Madrid’s eight goals overturned by VAR this season are the most in Europe’s top five leagues. AC Milan are second with six goals overturned.

  • Alejandro Balde’s five assists are tied for the most by a LaLiga defender this season. The only teenager from Europe’s top five leagues with more assists than Balde’s five this season is Jamal Musiala, who has seven for Bayern Munich.

Up next

Barcelona: After the international break, Barça visit Elche on Saturday, April 1 (stream live on ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET).

Real Madrid: Los Blancos return after the break on Sunday, April 2, when they host Real Valladolid (stream live on ESPN+ at 10:15 a.m. ET).


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