Madrid, March 20 (IANS) FC Barcelona go into the international break with a 12-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga after a dramatic 2-1 win over their eternal rivals in the Camp Nou Stadium.
Franck Kessie’s 92nd-minute goal on Sunday night gave Barca the win at the end of a thrilling game which either team could have won.
Thibaut Courtois had already made good saves from Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha in the first five minutes, but it was Real Madrid who opened the scoring in the ninth minute, a Xinhua report said.
Vinicius Jr found space on the left and his cross deflected off Ronald Araujo just enough to wrong-foot Marc-Andre ter Stegen and cross the goal-line.
Real Madrid looked relatively comfortable defending deep, but Sergi Roberto leveled with the last kick of the first half, following an attack in which Raphinha kicked clean air and Lewandowski saw a shot blocked, with the ball falling kindly for the midfielder.
Barca looked to kill the game off in the second half, but as the game progressed, Real Madrid created more chances on the break, with Rodrygo and Karim Benzema going close, before Marco Asensio had a goal ruled out 10 minutes from time for a tight offside.
With the game wide open, Kessie won it for Barca as he side-footed home to finish a move that also involved Lewandowski and Alejandro Balde.
Atletico Madrid made it 23 points from 27 with a 3-0 win at home struggling Valencia, and are only four points behind Real Madrid.
Antoine Griezmann’s first-half effort and second-half goals from Yannick Carasco and Thomas Lemar sealed a comfortable win, although Samuel Lino hit the post for Valencia late on.
A first-half goal from Borja Iglesias helped Real Betis forget their midweek UEFA Europa League exit as they beat Mallorca 1-0. Mallorca defended well but created little in attack and rarely looked like getting back on level terms.
Second-half goals from Takefusa Kubo and Ander Barrenetxea gave Real Sociedad a 2-0 win at home to bottom side Elche.
Although Elche held on in the first half, Kubo’s finish after a David Silva pass put Real Sociedad ahead two minutes after the break, and Barrenetxea ensured three points in the last minute after a counter-attack.
Villarreal won 3-0 away to Osasuna, who also look to be losing steam. Samuel Chukwueze put Villarreal ahead after 14 minutes, and two late goals from Jose Luis Morales gave an added sheen to the scoreline.
Munir El Haddadi and Enes Unal scored second-half goals that saw Getafe beat Sevilla 2-0 in a key battle to avoid relegation. The result lifts Getafe to 13th and leaves Sevilla two points above the drop, and also sees Valencia fall into the bottom three.
Rayo Vallecano and Girona shared four goals in an entertaining match on Saturday, which will be remembered for the way Isi and Oscar Trejo combined to miss a penalty, when Trejo tried to pass to his companion, rather than for the excellent goals they had scored earlier in the game.
Viktor Tsyhankov netted twice for Girona after Isi and Trejo had each scored excellent individual efforts.
Celta Vigo won 3-1 away to Espanyol, with Gabri Veiga, Iago Aspas and Carles Perez all scoring before Jose Gragera’s late consolation goal for Espanyol, who are again deep in trouble.
Gonzalo Melero scored a 96th-minute penalty to save a point for Almeria in their relegation battle with Cadiz, who looked to be set for a win after Roger Marti’s close-range opener in the 49th minute.
Athletic Bilbao won comfortably 3-1 away to Valladolid on Friday night thanks to goals from Inigo Martinez, Gorka Guruzeta and Mikel Vesga’s penalty.