Franck Kessie scored a stoppage-time winner as Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Camp Nou on Sunday to move closer to a first LaLiga title since 2019.
Kessie headed home at the far post after good work from Robert Lewandowski and Alejandro Balde to allow Barca to open a 12-point lead over their Clasico rivals at the top of the table.
Madrid took the lead in the ninth minute through Ronald Araujo’s own goal, with Sergi Roberto equalizing for Barca before the break. Marco Asensio had a goal ruled out for Madrid late on for offside before substitute Kessie delighted the 95,000 crowd.
With the win, Barcelona moved 12 points clear of second-placed Real Madrid at the top of the LaLiga table.
1. Barcelona are celebrating the El Clasico win as much as the LaLiga title today
Barcelona have yet to win the LaLiga title, but it sure felt like it after Kessie’s late goal.
At the full-time whistle, Barcelona players huddled in the middle of the pitch before celebrating with the fans behind the goal. Manager Xavi Hernandez’s side are now 12 points clear of Madrid with 12 games to go. To put that lead into context, Barca dropped just 10 points all season.
This game could not be any difference to the careful meeting in the Copa del Rey 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 full of chances for both teams.
Barca will feel their chances are better. Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha both came close on more than one occasion, with Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois making several key 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 into the box, and chances came and went for Karim Benzema either side of Asensio’s disallowed goal. Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid side fell behind, though, as they chased the goal.
Real Madrid can move within six points of Barcelona in the LaLiga table. Now, instead, the gap widens to 12.
2. Barca led by Raphinha made it three straight wins 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 in LaLiga.
Barcelona have also won four of the last five under Xavi. It was a first Clasico victory at the Camp Nou, however, in a staggering 1,603 days, since a 5-1 win in 2018, a run that spanned three winless games.
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Kessie’s goal deserves to be the moment the game is remembered for, a thrilling stoppage-time winner — but it felt like a big performance from Raphinha.
Although the Brazilian was not directly involved in any of the goals, Raphinha was brilliant on the right of Barca’s attack, both with and without the ball. Nacho Fernandez cannot face him.
3. Madrid are left to seek their revenge in the Copa del Rey
Madrid will mourn the great margins of football.
It took several minutes before VAR decided Asensio was offside when Rodrygo passed the ball. If the goal stands, we will be talking about the title race being brought back to life in Spain. Instead, Ancelotti’s side will turn their attention to other competitions after seeing a league-high eighth goal disallowed by VAR.
Madrid will return to the 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 a late defeat will provide further motivation. Los Blancos also stay in the Champions League, with a quarterfinal against Chelsea to come 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 some good stops but couldn’t prevent his side from collapsing to defeat.
Worst: Nacho Fernandez, Real Madrid
Filled in at left-back where he struggled to deal with Raphinha and Araujo. Booked for a late foul and 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 it didn’t get any better and Kessie lost for the win.
Worst: Sergio Busquets, Barcelona
It’s not all bad but there are a lot of mistakes. Lucky a misplaced pass didn’t end in a Rodrygo goal.
Highlights and notable moments
Real Madrid surprisingly took the lead inside nine minutes with a strange deflection resulting in an own goal from Barcelona.
Vinicius Junior tried to flick a cross into the box, but it knocked over the Barca defender Ronald Araujowho do not know much about it, and the purpose.
An own goal from Araujo gives Real Madrid the lead! 👀 pic.twitter.com/YptEkZmLa7
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 19, 2023
The match appeared to he heading into halftime with Real Madrid ahead, but Barcelona scored a crucial equalizer before the break. Raphinha there is a blocked shot, but Sergi Roberto tried his luck with the rebound and it went into the net.
That goal was crucial for the home side’s chances: Barcelona have won just once this season trailing at halftime compared to seven wins when tied at halftime.
SERGI ROBERTO TIES FOR BARCELONA! BEGIN IT! pic.twitter.com/ibxPbMDmXU
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 19, 2023
Real Madrid had a goal from Marco Asensio overruled by VAR in the 82nd minute after he was determined to be offside.
So the fight came on Frank Kessiewho scored with the clock stopped 91 minutes into stoppage time by clearing a cross by Alejandro Balde.
KESSIE 90TH MINUTE GOAL!
WOW WHAT A MATCH! pic.twitter.com/9L3IXUzT4J
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 19, 2023
After the match: What the managers and players had to say
Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois if 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 have to come here and win the Copa.”
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti on why his team went from +3 points in the LaLiga table against Barcelona to -12 after two Clasicos: “Barcelona are more consistent than us.”
Ancelotti on the LaLiga race and other hardware this season: “We will fight until the end, we are at a disadvantage but we will not think about it, we are sad to lose but our morale is good, the team played well, we will fight against everything, us. It’s three competitions and we’ll give it our all. If we play like that, we’ll get something.”
Key statistics (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
It was Barcelona’s 100th El Clasico win in all competitions. Real Madrid has 101, and there are 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 conceded are Atletico Madrid and Valencia with three goals overruled each.
Furthermore, Real Madrid’s eight goals disallowed by VAR this season are the most in Europe’s top five leagues. AC Milan are second with six goals conceded.
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.
Barcelona: After the international break, Barça visits Elche on Saturday, April 1 (live stream on ESPN+ at 3 pm ET).
Real Madrid: Los Blancos returns after the break on Sunday, April 2 when they host Real Valladolid (live stream on ESPN+ at 10:15 am ET).