Franck Kessie scored a stoppage-time winner to give Barcelona a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in Sunday’s Clasico at Camp Nou and a massive 12-point lead over second-place Real Madrid with 12 games of the LaLiga season remaining.
A freak own goal from Ronald Araujo put Real Madrid ahead in just the ninth minute, but Barcelona responded to claim a deserved equalizer through Sergi Roberto’s composed finish right on the stroke of half-time.
Real Madrid thought they had a potentially vital winner with nine minutes remaining when substitute Marco Asensio turned in Dani Carvajal’s cross. However, after a long VAR review, it was ruled that Asensio had initially been in an offside position.
Instead, as Madrid surged forward in search of a winning goal they surely needed to maintain realistic hopes of overhauling their opponents’ LaLiga lead, Kessie turned in a cut-back from Alex Balde in the second minute of stoppage time to send the Camp Nou crowd wild with delight.
Kessie’s effort was just the third game-winning stoppage-time goal in El Clasico history and ensured a 100th win in all competitions for Barcelona against Real Madrid.
Now with 68 points from 26 games, Barca have a comfortable 12-point cushion and a first title in four years within touching distance.
With Pep Guardiola in attendance, Barcelona were aiming to win three straight Clasicos for the first time since the now-Manchester City boss was in charge at Camp Nou during the 2011-12 season.
And they started as if intent on getting that victory. Pressing high and with ferocious intensity, Barcelona had Madrid rattled in the opening minutes. Thibaut Courtois had to be at this best to keep out efforts from Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha while Sergi Roberto shot just over the bar.
Within the first 10 minutes, the game had already witnessed more shots on goal than the previous meeting between the sides, which Barcelona won 1-0 in the Copa del Rey semifinal first leg earlier this month.
Just like in that game, though, it was an own goal that opened the scoring. Out of very little, Vinicius Junior chipped a cross back from near the byline down the left, and Araujo found his head in the wrong place at the wrong time to divert the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen at his near post.
The goal was the first Barcelona had conceded from open play at home in LaLiga this season and dented their early momentum as Madrid gained confidence and composure.
But as the opening half reached its conclusion, Barcelona cranked up the pressure once more to go into half-time with the scores level.
Madrid did their best to keep the hosts at bay, but after a Raphinha effort was well blocked the ball fell to Sergi Roberto, who struck a perfectly placed side-footed effort to beat Courtois from 12 yards.
The two sides exchanged chances at the start of the second half, as Federico Valverde slashed an effort wide for Madrid and Lewandowski had a shot deflected just wide.
But it was Madrid that needed the win more, and as the clock ticked past the hour mark, coach Carlo Ancelotti duly went to his substitutes bench for two attack-minded substitutions — bringing on Rodrygo and Ferland Mendy for Toni Kroos and Nacho.
Almost immediately, Rodrygo had a golden chance to put Madrid back in front. But after Sergio Busquets gave the ball away to allow a clear shot at goal from the edge of the box, the young Brazilian lashed his effort high over the crossbar.
As the game reached the final 10 minutes, Madrid poured forward in search of a title-race altering goal. But, with the help of VAR, Barcelona survived before Kessie stuck a late dagger into Madrid’s hopes of retaining their title.