Madrid - Luis Suarez's Barcelona debut ended in defeat as Real Madrid cut the
gap on the La Liga leaders to just a point as they came from behind to
win El Clasico 3-1 on Saturday thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo,
Pepe and Karim Benzema.
Playing for the first time in a
competitive game since being handed a four- month ban for biting Giorgio
Chiellini at the World Cup, Suarez's Barca career had got off to a
flying start as he set up Neymar to slide home the opening goal after
just three minutes.
However, Real responded like European
champions as Ronaldo levelled from the penalty spot before second-half
goals from Pepe and Benzema handed them a deserved ninth consecutive
victory in all competitions.
"I am very happy to return to
playing, it is a great relief to have this time behind me," said Suarez,
who was substituted after 68 minutes.
"The feeling is bittersweet because of the result but this team has lifted itself many times before."
Barca boss Luis Enrique insisted he didn't regret his decision to start the Uruguayan.
don't regret it at all," said Enrique. "He did more than I expected. He
played more and with rhythm. We brought him off because it is very
difficult to play the 90 minutes after such a long time."
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, lauded his side's reaction to conceding early on.
"We didn't lose our head after losing the early goal," he said.
liked many things about the team, above all the high tempo we played
with. The team recovered well with just two days rest after Wednesday
and played very well."
Suarez proved his worth within three
minutes as his cross-field pass was taken down by Neymar who skipped
inside Dani Carvajal and Pepe before sliding the ball into the far
corner for his 11th goal in as many games this season.
sparked Madrid into life as Benzema failed to find the target from a
narrow angle as he was pressured by Claudio Bravo before the Frenchman
crashed a header off the bar from Ronaldo's cross.
Both Messi and
Neymar were booked for late challenges on Toni Kroos and Carvajal as the
hosts upped the pressure in search of an equaliser.
were thankful to captain Iker Casillas midway through the half as he
spread himself to stop Lionel Messi becoming the joint top goalscorer in
La Liga history from a tempting cross from Suarez.
Barca had appeared to have taken the sting out of Madrid's pressing,
though, they gifted the hosts a route back into the game as Marcelo's
low cross was blatantly handled inside the area by Gerard Pique.
stepped up and confidently buried the resulting spot-kick to become the
first man to score against Barcelona in nine league games this season.
home side could even have gone in at half-time in front as James
Rodriguez's header drifted just wide from another Marcelo cross.
took Ancelotti's men just five minutes to go in front after the break
as Kroos's out-swinging corner was powered past Bravo by Pepe.
came close to opening up the Madrid defence a couple of times as Suarez
slipped after turning Sergio Ramos in the box before Ramos made a
last-ditch tackle to prevent Messi turning home Neymar's cut-back.
Casillas then produced another stunning save to prevent Jeremy Mathieu's rising drive finding the top corner.
in their haste for an equaliser, Barca were caught on the
counter-attack from their own corner as Isco, Ronaldo and Rodriguez
combined to play in Benzema to fire home his seventh El Clasico goal.
debut was then brought to a premature end as he made way for Pedro
Rodriguez and matters got even worse for the visitors when Andres
Iniesta hobbled off to be replaced by Sergi Roberto.
Madrid comfortably saw the game out in the final 20 minutes to inflict Barca's first league defeat of the season.