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Sports

Barcelona edge out Real Madrid in thrilling El Clasico

Spain's two biggest clubs have turned in another splendid exhibition of football in the derby known as El Clasico. Luis Suarez scored the winner to increase Barca's lead at the top of the table.

Barcelona have extended their lead at the top of Spain's La Liga to four points after a 2-1 win over their archrivals Real Madrid. Luis Suarez scored the winning goal, the sixth goal for the Uruguayan in his last seven matches.

Jeremy Mathieu opened the scoring before Cristiano Ronaldo netted his 42nd goal of the season to draw the Madrid club level. But Suarez netted with more than 30 minutes of the game to go and cap off what has been a tremendous recovery from Barcelona under Luis Enrique who was under fire at the turn of the year.

Watched by more than 400 million people around the globe - and a further 98,000 inside the stadium - the El Clasico derby is one of football's most absorbing fixtures.

In none of the last 18 clashes between Spain's big-two has any side managed to keep a clean sheet.

Real Madrid almost hit the front after a breathless first 20 minutes. Ronaldo tapped the ball on to the post on 12 minutes before Sergio Ramos blasted wide from close range.

Yet for all of the superstars on the pitch, the unlikely source of the first goal was Barca's Jeremy Mathieu who netted his third goal in seven against Real Madrid on 19 minutes.

One area of improvement in Barcelona's game under Luis Enrique, Messi dropped another sumptuous free kick into the box and the French defender bundled the ball past Ilker Casillas.

But the ebb-and-flow of El Clasico was sometimes impossible to predict. That unpredictability manifested itself around the half-hour mark as two decisive moments had differing fortunes for each side.

Spanien Fußball El Clasico Barcelona vs. Real Madrid

Ronaldo scores his 42nd goal of the season. Messi has 43 - the best in Europe

Ronaldo can't hold Barca back

While Neymar passed up a great chance at one end, Real Madrid struck at the other: Ronaldo scoring his sixth goal in seven visits to the Camp Nou after a fine passing move and some wonderful approach play involving Karim Benzema.

Maligned by Real Madrid fans this season, Gareth Bale - who endeared himself to the Real fans with a winning goal over Barcelona in the Spanish Cup - saw a scrappy effort ruled out for offside on 40 minutes.

Before the interval, the Welshman fired over the crossbar from close range as a pulsating first half of football came to a close. But the relentless high tempo continued immediately after the break as Bale threatened in behind Barcelona's defense.

The Catalans worked a second goal on 56 minutes with Dani Alves finding former Liverpool man Suarez who delightfully cushioned the ball under pressure before firing under Casillas from close range. Messi couldn't get on the scoresheet on 73 minutes, missing the target with a great effort.

Ahead of German Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in Barcelona's pecking order, Claudio Bravo was worth his weight in gold late on as he saved superbly to deny Benzema with 13 minutes left.

Xavi Hernandez was given a standing ovation when he came off the bench with a quarter of an hour to go in what is expected to be his last Clasico for Barcelona. Xavi and Enrique's men couldn't add to their lead, which bolsters their cushion at the top of the league.

Three goals, 11 yellow cards, 25 fouls and another fascinating title race in Spain's top division; this famous derby continues to captivate not just a nation, but a global audience.

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