Real Madrid breathed life into their faint hopes of challenging Barcelona for the La Liga title as Cristiano Ronaldo’s late winner sealed a come from behind 2-1 win at the Camp Nou on Saturday.
Here, AFP sports looks at five things we learned as Madrid cut their deficit on Barca to seven points with seven games to play.
Barca are beatable
It has been 40 games and six months since Barca tasted defeat, but their defensive liabilities when faced with pace on the counter-attack were exposed as Madrid could have scored five times in the final half hour after weathering a first-half storm from the European champions.
Ronaldo silences doubters
Cristiano Ronaldo extended his lead as La Liga’s top scorer with his 43rd goal of the season and in the process silenced suggestions that he hasn’t contributed enough in the biggest games so far this season.
The Portuguese showed remarkable composure to take down Gareth Bale’s cross five minutes from time before slotting past Claudio Bravo for his 16th goal against Barca.
Tiredness could cost Barca another treble
It was no coincidence that a rare off night for Barca’s star front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar came days after all three returned from South America on World Cup qualifying duties for their respective countries.
The difference between Barca’s dominance before the break and Madrid’s physical power in the second-half was striking.
Barca have already played 13 more games than Madrid this season and whilst they should still have enough of an advantage to seal the league title, fatigue could ultimately end their quest to become the first side to retain the Champions League.
Zidane proves his coaching credentials
On a night when Barca paid homage to the man with the rare ability to replicate his world class playing ability as a coach in Johan Cruyff, Zinedine Zidane showed the first signs of having the tactical nous to do likewise.
Madrid were embarrassed 4-0 by Barca earlier in the season, but were far more balanced as Zidane made the brave decision to leave the more flamboyant James Rodriguez and Isco on the bench for the more defensive Casemiro in midfield.
Moreover, his decision to defend deep and hit on the counter reaped huge rewards in both the visitors’ goals.
Ramos a liability
Zidane may need to make another big decision soon as Real captain Sergio Ramos’s miserable season continued as he was sent-off for his second consecutive league game and the 21st time in his career.
The Spanish international was very lucky to escape a second booking as early as the 25th minute and should Raphael Varane be fit for Wednesday’s trip to Wolfsburg, a central defensive pairing of the French international and Pepe looks a far better bet if Madrid are to go all the way in the Champions League.