La Liga: Barcelona thrust last-minute dagger into Real Madrid’s title hopes



Barcelona snatched a 2-1 Clasico win over Real Madrid with Franck Kessie’s late goal Sunday to move 12 points clear at the top of La Liga.

It was the second match between the rivals in less than three weeks.

Barcelona won 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on March 3 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals. The return leg at Camp Nou is on April 5.

The build-up to the match was overshadowed by Barcelona’s corruption charge in the “Caso Negreira” refereeing scandal.

Madrid joined Spanish prosecutors’ complaint against Barcelona last week and their president Florentino Perez snubbed the game for the first time in over 20 years, amid rising tensions between the two Spanish giants.

That fed the match’s intensity, both on and off the pitch, in Xavi’s sixth Clasico as Barcelona coach but only his first at Camp Nou.

Xavi asked fans to make the stadium a pressure cooker and they responded.

The match was sold out, as fans whistled constantly while Madrid had possession and conjured up one of the best atmospheres of the season.

The victory dents Madrid’s ambitions of retaining the title and leaves the Catalans close to lifting the trophy for the first time since 2019.

The win sees the Catalan side open a 12 point lead at the top of the league table.

The home side had to dig deep and come from behind after a Vini Jr. cross struck Ronald Araujo on the head and drifted past Ter Stegen to put the visitors ahead.

This was only the ninth time all season the German stopper had to pick the ball from the back of his net with Barcelona boasting the best defensive record in the top European leagues.

Just as it seemed that the visitors would head into the dressing rooms with their noses in front, Sergi Roberto pounced to steer the ball home after hesitation from the Madrid rearguard.

The second half developed a pattern not dissimilar to the first with Barça pressing and Madrid looking dangerous on the counter with Vini Jr. a constant thorn in the side for Ronald Araujo.

As the clock ticked down, and with Madrid needing to win, Ancelotti threw on Asensio and Rodrygo to bolster the attack.

The move seemed like a stroke of genius as Asensio, with his first touch poked the ball home only for VAR to overrule the strike with the Madrid player millimeters offside.

In the dying minutes of a bright and entertaining Clasico, the Catalan side broke on the left flank with Lewandowski and Balde combining well as the left back put the ball on a plate for substitute Kessie who made no mistake.

The Ivorian struck to win the game and probably the title for the Camp Nou side.

Barca Manager, Xavi Hernandez said, “Real Madrid posed problems for us later on with the changes and looked dangerous when Asensio and Rodrygo were on the ball.”

“I genuinely believe that we were superior to Real Madrid throughout the game.”

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