Lionel Messi failed to score against Real Madrid for a seventh straight Clasico as the hosts leapfrogged Barcelona to go top of LaLiga, winning the derby between the Spanish giants through Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos goals. </p><div><p>Visitors Barca had the better of the possession for large swathes of the showdown, only to struggle badly with Madrid's counter-attacking style, encapsulated by Zinedine Zidane's side taking the lead despite having been dominated for the opening 13 minutes.
Madrid top scorer Benzema reacted quickest to flick in a Lucas Vazquez cross at the near post to put the hosts ahead, then Kroos added the second 15 minutes later, his free-kick taking a deflection off Sergino Dest.
Messi almost created an immediate equalizer after Madrid’s first, teasing several markers on the left-hand side of the penalty area before supplying a cross that narrowly evaded Ousmane Dembele, who was inches from scoring.
Uruguay midfielder Federico Valverde hit the woodwork six minutes after Benzema struck, then Messi curled a corner against the far post on the stroke of half-time – a near-miss that Barca may look back on as a turning point in the match.
The Barca captain had a part in their reply. Highly-rated young defender Oscar Mingueza, who is considered by many to be a long-term option to replace Gerard Pique, slashed the ball in off his shin from a Jordi Alba cross after Messi had started a move with half an hour remaining.
Eighteen-year-old midfielder Ilaix Moriba hit the crossbar in a frenetic final attack of the game for Barca, which even saw goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen – advancing as a last resort – see a shot blocked in the dying seconds.
Both sides made five changes in a tight contest that leaves the top three in LaLiga crammed together.
Atletico, who are away to sixth-placed Real Betis tomorrow, are level with Madrid at the top on 66 points, with an inferior goal difference but that game in hand.
Barcelona’s superb run of 19 matches unbeaten ended in respectable style, although they were furious when they were refused a penalty after substitute Martin Braithwaite went down inside the penalty area with eight minutes remaining.
The result also gave Madrid a sixth successive win in all competitions and ended Barca’s impressive string of seven domestic victories.
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