"It's not about me being better than Cristiano Ronaldo it is about Barcelona being better than Real Madrid," said Lionel Messi after his 40th goal of the season gave the Spanish champions their fourth win over their great rivals inside two years.
Messi now has seven goals in eight games against Madrid. Ronaldo has yet to score against Barcelona in five meetings. Fifteen home wins from 15 games in the league had taken Real to the top but in their most important contests – against Lyons in the Champions League and here they and Ronaldo have failed to deliver.
Saturday's win was more a slap in the face than the hiding dished out last season, but it hurt just the same. Madrid spent £250m last summer and instead of losing 6-2 at home to Barcelona, they lost 2-0 – hardly an acceptable return on their investment.
"We are very happy. We still have a job to finish. There are 21 points left but we've taken an important step," said Pep Guardiola afterwards. And with seven games left Madrid's sporting director Jorge Valdano reminded everyone that Barcelona had dropped points twice in the last seven games prior to the clasico while Real had enjoyed a maximum return. But the thousands of home supporters who streamed out before the final whistle know these were the points that mattered. The same fans lined the streets two hours before kick-off to deliver the traditional hostile welcome to the Barcelona team bus. And they were encouraged by a peculiar team selection from Guardiola who left Messi up front on his own.
But a little Messi is still an awful lot for any defence to deal with and when the Argentine received a first-half pass from Xavi he shuffled around Raul Albiol and dispatched it into the back of Iker Casillas's net.
Xavi's pass for Pedro in the second half sent the Canary Islands winger scuttling clear to shoot coolly past Casillas for the second goal.
Bayern keep their treble chance dreams alive
Bayern Munich closed in on the Bundesliga title with a draw away to Bayer Leverkusen. Arjen Robben scored his 10th goal of the season converting a penalty won by Franck Ribéry to leave Bayern, with just four games left, two points clear of second placed Schalke who lost 4-2 away to Hanover.
"We have had so many matches in the past weeks and we are still two points ahead. I can only be satisfied," said Munich's coach, Louis van Gaal.
Bayern and Internazionale are the only sides in Europe who can still win the treble but Jose Mourinho's side dropped to second in Serie A, behind Roma, after they were held 2-2 by Fiorentina. Roma beat Atalanta 2-1 at home to climb to the top.