Barcelona, Oct 29 (IANS) Uruguay forward Luis Suarez scored a hat trick, leading Barcelona to a 5-1 rout over Real Madrid in the El Clasico duel between the La Liga arch-rivals, while pushing Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui one step closer to a possible firing.
The win on Sunday gives Barcelona the lead in the Spanish league standings with 21 points, while Madrid is in ninth place with 14 points, and is in the midst of a five-game La Liga winless skid as the team struggles in its first season under Lopetegui, reports Efe.
This was the first El Clasico match to be played since 2007 without ex-Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, who missed the game after he fell and fractured his right arm on Oct. 20 against Sevilla.
Despite Messi’s absence, Barcelona overwhelmed a Real Madrid squad that seemed to lack not only answers but also the drive and means to react.
Barcelona left back Jordi Alba proved to be a continuous headache for Real Madrid and played a pivotal role in the group effort made by the whole squad.
Although Barcelona was the dominant team, it was Real Madrid who first created a scoring chance in the eighth minute on a counter-attack led by Wales winger Gareth Bale, but French forward Karim Benzema’s shot went high.
Just three minutes later, Barcelona attacking midfielder Ivan Rakitic played a pass to a speedy Alba, who made the most of the spaces he was offered.
Alba then sent a cross into the area that attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho put home, culminating a 27-pass group effort in which all the Barça players touched the ball except Suarez.
The goal seemed to affect Real Madrid’s morale, to the point they almost conceded a second goal on a shot by Brazilian midfielder Arthur Melo that nearly punished Real’s indecisive Spanish defenders Sergio Ramos and Nacho Fernandez.
As the minutes ticked away, Real Madrid showed no sign of a potential revival and Barcelona strengthened its grip over the game.
Shortly before the half-hour mark, Alba played a pass to Suarez inside the area and was downed by French defender Raphael Varane, and eventually the video assistant referee (VAR) awarded Barcelona a penalty that the Uruguayan player successfully converted to make it 2-0.
Barcelona squandered an opportunity to score a third goal in the closing minutes of the first half, and it seemed they would be made to pay for it when, just five minutes into the second half, Real Madrid got on the scoreboard.
Spanish midfielder Isco sent a cross into the area that ended up in Marcelo’s foot, and the Brazilian player did not think twice as he put it past Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The goal boosted Real Madrid’s spirits, as they seemed more persistent and nearly scored a second goal on a shot by Croatia midfielder Luka Modric that hit the woodwork in the 65th minute.
Having weathered the storm with the least possible damage, Barcelona regained control of the game and Suarez nearly scored the third goal at the one-hour mark after connecting a pass by Spanish right back Sergi Roberto, but his shot hit the woodwork.
Suarez, however, did not miss on a cross by Roberto 15 minutes later to make the score 3-1, before he struck once more in the 83rd minute.
With just three minutes to go before the second-half stoppage time, Barcelona got the fifth goal on a header by Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal.