MADRID: European and Spanish champions Barcelona constructed the perfect launching pad for their bid to regain the world title by defeating ‘old enemy’ Real Madrid 3-1 in the Estadio Bernabeu – despite having conceded a first-minute goal.
Coach Pep Guardiola’s men are now heading for Tokyo where they are expected to beat South American champions Santos of Brazil in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup. Barcelona last won the world club crown in 2009. As for Madrid, defeat ended a 15-match winning run in all competitions.
Barcelona went into the match as underdogs, trailing the capital club by three points and having played a game more and they conceded the quickst gloal in Clasico history when Karim Benzema punished a Victor Valdes error after just 23 seconds.
Barcelona hit back with goals from Alexis Sanchez, a Marcelo own-goal deflection – to a Xavi shot – and Cesc Fabregas after two bad misses at the other end from Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Catalans head to Japan as leaders of the Primera Division courtesy of their better head-to-head record over Madrid, who still have a game in hand.
Elsewhere in Europe
In France Kevin Gameiro scored his first goal in eight weeks as Paris Saint-Germain claimed a 1-0 win at Sochaux to move level on points with leaders Montpellier while, in Germany, Borussia Monchengladbach squandered a chance to go top after losing 1-0 at struggling Augsburg.
In Holland leaders AZ Alkmaar cruised to a 4-0 home win over fading Graafschap Doetinchem to clinch the ‘winter’ title while, in Serbia, champions Partizan Belgrade went 10 points clear with a 3-0 win at bottom team Metalac Gornji Milanovac in the last round of matches before the winter break.
In Italy troubled Internazionale bounced back after two home defeats to punish defensive blunders and beat Fiorentina 2-0 on strikes from Giampaolo Pazzini and Yuto Nagatomo either side of halftime. Miroslav Klose scored twice, including the late winner, to give Lazio a 3-2 win at Lecce and spoil the debut of new coach Serse Cosmi.