MADRID: Real Madrid underlined their status as champions of European by bringing arch-rivals and Liga leaders Barcelona to their knees with a 3-1 win in the Estadio Bernabeu.
Defender Sergio Ramos said later: “We’re very happy. The team were unbelievable in every aspect of the game.”
Barcelona fans may question whether coach Luis Enrique erred in starting with bite-ban sriker Luis Suarez after a four-month ban in which the Catalans had won every game without conceding a goal.
Suarez had an immediate impact in setting up Neymar to open the scoring after four minutes. Lionel Messi wasted a chance for a second goal before Cristiano Ronaldo equalised with a penalty.
A powerful header from Pepe put Real ahead before they added to their lead when Karim Benzema finished a brilliant counter-attack with an angled shot.
Madrid have now scored 33 goals after nine games so far this season in La Liga and the last team with so many were the greats of Alfredo D Stefano and Ferenc Puskas in 1959-60.
Their delight in winning the 229th meeting of the clubs was heightened now that they sit only one point behind Barcelona.
The visitors may have taken the lead but were ultimately disappointing as they failed to match the greater cutting edge in attack and solidity in defence of the home side as they suffered their first league defeat of the season.
Uruguayan Suarez made an immediate impact when his crossfield pass found Neymar, and the Brazilian cut in from the left and curled in a low shot for the opener, his ninth goal of the campaign.
However the goal sparked Real into action. Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo had to be at his best to deny Benzema effort before the France forward thumped a header from Ronaldo’s cross against the posts and smashed the rebound wide.
Barcelona should have added to their lead when Suarez sent in a low cross for Messi only for the Argentinan to sidefoot wide from close range.
However, Real were level when Gerard Pique handled a low Marcelo cross and Ronaldo dispatched the penalty to score his 16th league goal of the campaign.
The home side started the second half brightly and their pressure eventually broke a vulnerable Barcelona defence when Pepe powered in a header from a corner.
The goal gave Los Blancos a firm grip of the game as they sat back and comfortably soaked up Barcelona’s pressure, while continually hitting the Catalan club on the break.
When Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta lost possession on the halfway line, Real lethally struck for their third. Isco, Ronaldo and Rodriguez combined before the latter slid a pass through to Benzema, who angled in a precise shot.