An incident-packed Clasico saw Barcelona edge Real Madrid by the odd goal in seven to close the gap at the top of La Liga to a point while Atletico won at Real Betis as the Spanish title race took another intriguing turn.
The season’s second Clasico delivered seven goals, three penalties, a red card and a Lionel Messi hat-trick as Barcelona left the Santiago Bernabeu with three points from a storming 4-3 victory over Real Madrid. The game started at a frantic pace that lasted the full 90 minutes. Andres Iniesta put Barca ahead after just five minutes, but two goals from the outstanding Karim Benzema’s turned the game around before Messi restored parity before the break.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty, after the Portuguese had been brought down by Dani Alves, restored Madrid’s lead, though replays showed contact was outside the area before Ronaldo went dramatically to ground. Sergio Ramos was controversially adjudged to have brought down Neymar in the area and saw red for the 19th time in his career.
Messi fired in the spot-kick to level at 3-3 and Carlo Ancelotti caused some raised eyebrows by sacrificing Benzema for defender Raphael Varane. Barca were awarded their second penalty in the 83rd minute as Iniesta fell after attempting to battle his way between Daniel Carvajal and Xabi Alonso. Messi kept his cool among Los Blancos’ protests to fire what turned out to be the winner into the top right-hand corner from the spot.
Atletico Madrid capitalised on the second-half dismissal of Real Betis forward Braian Rodriguez to win 2-0 at the Benito Villamarin. The Uruguayan saw red in the 55th minute for his second bookable offence, and Atletico scored twice in the next 10 minutes through Gabi and Diego Costa as rock-bottom Real Betis were made to pay. Betis had frustrated Atletico for long periods in the first half but another defeat leaves them running out of time in their battle for Primera survival. Their win means Atleti are level on points with Real Madrid but have the lead on head-to-head results.
Athletic Bilbao tightened their grip on fourth place with a slender 1-0 victory over Getafe at San Mames. Markel Susaeta scored the only goal of the game in the 39th minute and although Athletic were by some distance the better side, they were unable to extend their advantage. The win sees Ernesto Valverde’s men move a step closer to Champions League qualification, while Getafe remain perilously close to the relegation zone in 17th spot.
Almeria climbed out of the bottom three with a 4-3 win over Real Sociedad in a thrilling encounter at the Juegos Mediterraneos. Carlos Vela gave La Real a 21st minute lead from the spot after handball by Angel Trujillo, but the lead was short-lived as Oscar Diaz stroked home an equaliser eight minutes later. Imanol Agirretxe restored the Basques’ advantage after the break, only for Jose Verza to convert a penalty after Carlos Martinez brought down Aleix Vidal in the 66th minute.
Almeria went ahead five minutes later, Verza dispatching his second spot-kick of the night after Vidal was fouled again, this time by Mikel Gonzalez. Not for the first time this season, Almeria’s defence looked ragged and Markel Bergara equalised five minutes from time. A draw looked to be on the cards until Hicham Khaloua, a late substitute, scored the winning goal in stoppage time on his debut, sending the home crowd into raptures.