BARCELONA: Barcelona stretched their league leadership over Real Madrid to four points by winning the second Clasico of the Spanish season 2-1.

Madrid had the better of the first half but once Suarez had popped the hosts ahead the visitors began to tire as they were forced to chase the game.

It might all have been so different if Madrid had achieved the initial breakthrough against the Liga leaders, as they could have done.

Marcelo freed Karim Benzema for a delicate chip cross goal which Ronaldo met at the far post and managed to clip against the bar, which appeared a more difficult option than hitting the net.

Barcelona responded by seizing the lead on 19 minutes. Leo Messi flighted a left-wing free kick towards the penalty spot and Mathieu stretched across Sergio Ramos to head down past Iker Casillas’s left hand.

It could have been 2-0 but Neymar missed badly and the Brazilian’s blunder proved costly.

Madrid’s world and European champions ran away on the counter and Luka Modric’s fed Karim Benzema whose delicate backheel was jabbed home by the inrushing Cristiano Ronaldo. That was the World Player of the Year’s ninth goal in 15 appearances in Camp Nou.

It also injected Madrid with renewed belief and they commanded the remainder of the first half in front of a 98,760 crowd.

Gareth Bale had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, an angled drive from Ronaldo was tipped over by Claudio Bravo and Bale stabbed wide from the corner.

Neither coach, Luis Enrique or Carlo Ancelotti, made a change for the second half which continued as the first had ended with Benzema drawing another fine save from Bravo.

Now it was their chance to caught out on the break as Barcelona regaine the lead with Luis Suarez’s 14th goal since moving to Spanish football from Liverpool after the World Cup last summer.

Neymar could have put distance between the teams too but, after a slalom dash forward he shot optimistically himself – and wide – instead of feeding the unmarked Suarez.

Not that it mattered, in the end.