Cristiano Ronaldo finally stood up to be counted in a Clasico as record-breaking Real Madrid took a giant step towards wrestling the Primera Division title from Barcelona's grasp.
The debate over who is better out of Ronaldo or Barca counterpart Lionel Messi has raged for some time, but unlike the former, the latter has always been able to call on an impeccable record in this fixture.
Last night, though, Ronaldo stepped up, scoring a 73rd-minute winner that puts Jose Mourinho's men seven points clear with four games remaining. He struck just two minutes after Alexis Sanchez had bundled in an equaliser to cancel out Sami Khedira's equally scrappy first-half opener -- a goal that set a new record for goals in a league season.
It was the Portugal forward's standout contribution on a night when Madrid strangled their normally free-passing hosts. Messi was barely allowed a kick and his playmaking team-mates -- Xavi and Andres Iniesta -- were largely stifled by a Madrid side fully aware of the rewards on offer.
With 17 minutes on the clock, Madrid took the lead with their 108th goal of the campaign. Mesut Ozil's corner found Pepe at the back post and his header was parried by Valdes but, as Carles Puyol struggled to get his legs free to clear, Khedira wrapped his foot around the loose ball to score from two yards.
The goal was met with near silence, much like when Xavi missed a wonderful chance to equalise 10 minutes later. Messi's slide-rule pass put him clear on Iker Casillas' goal, but he could only hit across and wide, rather than under the keeper as was expected.
Real slowed the game down after the break as a number of players, including Pepe and Fabio Coentrao, both requiring treatment for what appeared to be innocuous injuries. Their tactics were frustrating Barca, though, until the 70th minute when Sanchez bundled in from close range.
But, rather than implode as they have done so often in this fixture over recent years, Real responded with class. Ozil's ball set Ronaldo racing down the right and his 54th goal of the season was made easier by Valdes' decision to race off his line.
Sunday Indo Sport