Real Madrid hung on for a 2-1 win over Barcelona that sent them to the top of La Liga as Lionel Messi’s Clasico goal drought continued.
First-half goals from Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos kept Zinedine Zidane’s side in control, and although Oscar Mingueza pulled one out on time, there was no goal. for Messi – the top scorer in El Clasico history but now scoreless in his last seven games against Real.
The Argentine wasn’t the only Barca man struggling in front of goal as the visitors led possession – with 69% – but failed to make it count as Madrid seemed a constant threat during the horrible weather break.
That means a single point separates the top three from the title fight as the season heads to an exciting conclusion.
Real started the night in third, behind Barca, but the victory put them at the top of the table on goal difference ahead of local rivals Atletico, who will face Real Betis on Sunday night.
Madrid have won 15 of their last 20 games in all competitions and have won three in a row against their main rivals for the first time since 1978.
Ahead of the game, all eyes were on Messi as he tied the record for injured Sergio Ramos with his 45th Clasico appearance, but it remains to be seen whether one or both men have now made their last.
The 33-year-old was quickly involved in encouraging moves as Barca dominated the opening trades, but they failed to test Thibaut Courtois before Benzema struck at 13 minutes.
Lucas Vazquez sent a low cross from the right and Benzema moved ahead of Ronald Araujo to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen at his near post with a rear wheel finish.
Barca responded brilliantly, but Messi’s cross was too high for Ousmane Dembele and again Courtois’ goal was not seriously threatened until the second goal.
Vinicius Junior, who was instrumental in the midweek victory over Liverpool, was shot at the edge of the box to give Kroos the free kick opportunity.
The Germany international hit his free kick pretty well, but that would be done with the help of a deflection on Sergino Dest, Jordi Alba being unable to adjust on the line as he could only help the ball into the net.