Madrid, April 11
Keeping Lionel Messi in check again in what could turn out to be his last Spanish league Clasico, Real Madrid continued the impressive run which has put them at the heart of the title race.
Four days after beating Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals, Madrid defeated Barcelona 2-1 on Saturday to return to the top in Spain.
“We have to enjoy what we’ve been doing. We got two very good results and it wasn’t easy,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “Being in the lead won’t change anything for us. We have to keep working hard.”
The victory in pouring rain in the Spanish capital left Madrid tied on points with Atletico Madrid, who can return to the top when they visit sixth-placed Real Betis. Madrid are ahead of their city rivals on the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Barcelona, who had been unbeaten in 19 straight league games, stayed one point off the lead.
The 33-year-old Messi, who reached seven straight Clasicos without a goal, has his contract with Barcelona ending this season.
Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos scored first-half goals to give Madrid their sixth straight win in all competitions. The defending league champions were coming off a 3-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday. Barcelona got on the board in the second half with a goal by Oscar Mingueza. They nearly equalised with a shot from young substitute Ilaix Moriba that struck the crossbar in the final play of the match.
“We tried until the end but it wasn’t possible. We almost had it in that final play,” Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto said. “We depended on our own results had we won, but now we need to hope that our rivals stumble. We will keep fighting until the very end.” — AP