FC Barcelona paved the sweetest route back to the top of the Spanish Liga as substitute Zlatan Ibrahimović fired the only goal against Real Madrid CF, enabling the Catalan club to leapfrog their rivals in the standings.
Barcelona, a point behind their rivals prior to 'El Clásico', began the more confidently without threatening to breach the visiting rearguard and it was Madrid who fashioned the two notable opportunities of a keenly contested opening half. Kaká was at the heart of both moves, first setting up Cristiano Ronaldo with a mazy run and watching as it took the boot of Víctor Valdés to thwart the Portuguese winger. The Brazilian then slipped in Marcelo inside the area, only for his effort to be blocked by a wonderful last-ditch Carles Puyol tackle.
Josep Guardiola introduced Ibrahimović for Thierry Henry shortly after the restart as the hosts searched for a spark and the Swedish striker provided it on 56 minutes. Barcelona worked space for Daniel Alves on the right and his deep cross was thumped inside the near post by Ibrahimović for his eighth goal of the Liga campaign. However, Sergio Busquets then received a second yellow card for deliberate handball with almost half an hour still to play, before Ronaldo and Gerard Piqué both headed presentable chances off target. Substitute Karim Benzema blazed a late chance over and Lassana Diarra was also dismissed as Madrid suffered a third straight league defeat against the champions.
Elsewhere, Athletic Club and Getafe CF cemented their top-half positions with comprehensive victories. The former were 4-1 winners at UD Almería while the Madrid side scored five times in 16 minutes, including a Roberto Soldado hat-trick, to beat ten-man Xerez CD 5-1. Two struggling teams produced an entertaining match at the José Zorrilla as CD Tenerife came back from three down after 63 minutes to draw 3-3 at Real Valladolid CF and Club Atlético de Madrid climbed out of the relegation zone with a 4-0 cruise against RCD Espanyol. Finally, a single strike sufficed for both fifth-placed RC Deportivo La Coruña at Real Racing Club and CA Osasuna away to Real Zaragoza.
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