Real Madrid's David Alaba celebrates scoring the opening goal. / albert gea / Reuters

Real Madrid bursts Barça's bubble

Los Blancos pick up their second consecutive win at the Nou Camp

ÓSCAR BELLOT

Real Madrid beat El Clásico rivals Barcelona 2-1 and walked away from the Nou Camp with three points in the bag thanks to goals by David Alaba, his first for the club, and Lucas Vázquez, with the hosts pulling one back with barely a minute left to play.

Despite picking up two wins in a row, Barça's woes returned as they lost bragging rights, saw their league aspirations dwindle and their crisis on and off the pitch increase.

Real Madrid proved to be well disciplined and effective when it mattered, in stark contrast with a helpless Barcelona side that continues to suffer in the box. However, fans of the Catalan side will be pleased that their team returned to their more traditional style of play. Manager Ronaldo Koeman opted for a 4-3-3, leaving aside the three-man defence that many have criticised him for.

Carlo Ancelotti remained confident in the eleven men who brought home a win from Ukraine during the week and made no changes to Real Madrid's starting men.

Barça implemented a high press from the get-go, as they attempted to snuff out Real's ball circulation. The hosts made their presence noted, and backed their visitors into a corner, controlling the game for as long as they could.

But Ancelotti had an antidote for this particular poison: Vinicius. As both teams kept as compact as possible- taking into account their weakness when the ball transitions- Barça had a golden opportunity to take the lead, with Sergiño Dest firing above the goal.

A few minutes later, past the half hour mark, Real Madrid launched their own counter attack, initiated and finished by David Alaba, whose left-foot rocket gave the visitors the lead.

After half-time, it was up to Barça to see what they were made of. Koeman introduced Coutinho onto the pitch to see if the Brazilian could add a more dynamic aspect to their play, as Real Madrid were treading on eggshells and poised to concede.

Barça then switched their game plan and starting lumping balls into the box in the hope that it would find its way in the back of the net. Defender Piqué began joining in these attacks, which in hindsight was reckless.

Los Blancos took advantage once again of the off-guard Barça defence, with Vázquez extending their lead to 2-0 with only a few minutes to go.

Barcelona didn't stop trying to pull one back, which they eventually managed to do through Agüero, which was also his first goal for the club, but to no avail.

The Catalan side are now winless against their rivals since 2019 and Koeman is the first manager since 1940 to lose his first three El Clásicos.

Real Madrid are now in second place in the league table, a single point behind leaders Real Sociedad.