Barça still one step ahead of Real

Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 3

The Bernabeu

Pep Guardiola wished everyone a happy Christmas as he left his post-match press conference. It seemed a little premature but his team are now in Japan for the World Club Championship and will not be back until the 19th. And, after inflicting on Jose Mourinho a fourth defeat in two seasons, it probably felt like Christmas anyway.

After fielding so many questions in the run-up to the game about how Barcelona would cope with potentially being nine points behind Real Madrid at year's end, Guardiola remains unbeaten at the Bernabeu in four years as Barcelona coach and with his team top of the league. Jose Mourinho was asked if it was fair to say he had still not found a way to beat the current Spanish Champions. "If you look at the numbers then you have to say that that is true," the Real Madrid manager said.

The inquests centered on the tactical nuances of the two coaches – how Guardiola had moved Dani Alves from right-back to the right wing midway through the first half and how Mourinho had failed to respond. But the truth is perhaps far simpler: Barcelona have better players. For all Pepe's defensive heroics he can't match Carles Puyol for sheer bloody-minded resistance. The veteran central defender has not been on the losing side for Barcelona in nineteen months, absent from all of Barcelona's seven defeats in that time, and was immense alongside Gerard Pique once again.

Despite the occasional dazzle from Mesut Ozil, no one in Madrid's midfield dances through a match with so many touches, and half-touches, of brilliance as Andres Iniesta. And Leo Messi, on big occasions, gives a yard more than Cristiano Ronaldo. Twice Real Madrid's top scorer had chances to swing the game his team's way but on both occasions produced uncharacteristically woeful finishes.

"Luck plays a part," Mourinho said after the game. "With 1-0 we could have made it 2-0 and in normal circumstances Cristiano, who is a fantastic player, would score." That failure to build on the fastest ever goal scored in a Clasico – Karim Benzema's opener on 23 seconds – cost Madrid.

Messi brilliantly worked an opening for Alexis Sanchez, which was duly buried past Iker Casillas, and a deflected Xavi shot gave Barca a second-half lead. Ronaldo then missed with a header and, within 60 seconds, the visitors had raced to the other end, where Dani Alves crossed for Cesc Fabregas to head home his eighth league goal in 10 starts.

Mourinho is the first Real Madrid coach to fail to beat Barcelona at home in four consecutive games. This time, there was dignity in defeat – but it was defeat all the same.

Scorers: Real Madrid Benzema 1. Barcelona Sanchez 30,

Xavi 53, Fabregas. Substitutes: Kaka (Ozil, 58), Khedira (Diarra, 63), Higuain (Di Maria, 68). Barcelona Keita (Fabregas, 79), Villa (Sanchez, 84), Pedro (Iniesta, 89).Booked: Real Madrid Alonso, Diarra, Pepe, Ramos.        Barcelona Sanchez, Messi, Pique.

Man of the match Alves. Match rating 8/10.

Possession: Real Madrid 38% Barcelona 62%.

Attempts on target: Real Madrid 5 Barcelona 7.

Referee David Fernandez Borbalan. Att 79,900.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before