Both sides went into this weekend’s clash knowing that defeat would not only offer Atletico Madrid the opportunity to pull away from them in the title race but also damage their own hopes of winning this season’s Primera Division title.
Despite a bright start to the game, Barcelona were undone just 13 minutes into the match when Lucas Vazquez bombed into some space on the right flank and drilled a low cross towards the front post, where Karim Benzema tapped the ball into the back of the net with the most delicate of flicks from his heel.
As Madrid have come to expect this season, the French striker was in the right place at the right time and opened the scoring with his 19th goal in this season’s Spanish top flight in just 26 games.
Before Barcelona could recollect and get back to dominating proceedings, Madrid struck again just 15 minutes after the first goal when a set-piece on the edge of the box allowed Toni Kroos to fire a shot towards goal.
Although the Germany international got his shot on target, what ended up sticking it in the back of the net was a deflection from Sergino Dest. Which, in turn, allowed Madrid to double their lead.
Despite dominating possession, Barcelona struggled to break down their defensive opponents and looked clumsy in the final third, where Madrid counter attacked with speed and precision. At half time the hosts looked good for their lead and in relative comfort.
Ronald Koeman must have said something special in the changing room at half time because Barcelona came out in the second half and immediately set about making up for their mistakes in the opening 45 minutes.
The visitors poked and prodded Madrid’s defence and finally found a breakthrough when a hopeful cross from Jordi Alba reached the outstretched leg of Oscar Mingueza directly in front of the Madrid goal, following a smart dummy by Antoine Griezmann. The defender did just enough to stick in the back of the net and offer some hope to Lionel Messi & Co.
For the remainder of the match Barcelona did their best to steal a late equaliser in truly horrific conditions, as the referee and Messi were both forced to go off the pitch at certain points to change their microphones or tops respectively. Alas, the elements and some pragmatic defending from Madrid ultimately proved too much.
Of course, it wouldn’t be El Clasico without some late drama when Martin Braithwaite went down in the Madrid box after apparently being pulled down by Ferland Mendy, as both players chased down a loose ball. Despite the protests of the Barcelona players, the referee was unmoved.
Madrid’s desperation to see out their victory ultimately saw Casemiro pick up two yellow cards in as many minutes, which forced the hosts down to 10 men for the remaining moments of the game.
However, despite a temporary numerical advantage, Barcelona were unable to find a late equaliser and wrestle a point off Zidane's team.