MADRID (AP) — Barcelona handed Real Madrid another demoralizing loss on Saturday, beating its arch rival at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for the second time in a week to take complete control on top of the Spanish league.
Ivan Rakitic scored in the first half and Barcelona held on for a 1-0 victory that virtually ends Madrid’s title hopes.
It was the third straight win by Barcelona at the Bernabeu, coming three days after a 3-0 result that eliminated Madrid from the Copa del Rey semifinals. Barca has also become the first team to win four in a row at the Bernabeu in the league.
Barca is 12 points ahead of Madrid with 12 matches left. The defending champions are 10 points in front of second-place Atletico Madrid, which visits Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Saturday’s loss leaves Madrid in crisis, with the Champions League its only hope of a trophy this season. Coach Santiago Solari and his squad will be under pressure when Madrid hosts Ajax on Tuesday to defend a 2-1 first-leg lead in the round of 16.
Barcelona is gunning for three titles, the league, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, and its players celebrated in front of the away fans after the match, while Madrid supporters jeered their side at the end.
Madrid is winless against Barcelona in six matches in all competitions, and has lost 11 of 18 matches played against its rival in the Spanish capital.
Barcelona won 3-0 the last time the teams met in the league at the Bernabeu, and routed Madrid 5-1 at Camp Nou Stadium in their first league game this season.
After dominating in the first half on Wednesday only to collapse in the second, Madrid never looked in control on Saturday.
Barcelona created most of the chances and struck in the 26th minute. Sergi Roberto sent a pass behind the Madrid defenders for Rakitic and the midfielder chipped the ball over goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from inside the area.
Madrid pressed forward after conceding, but Barcelona kept threatening on the counter.
Lionel Messi was quiet for Barca. His most notable moment came when he and Sergio Ramos squared up before halftime, with the Argentina forward upset at the Madrid captain for leaving his arm high and hitting his head in a challenge.
It was the third meeting between the teams in less than a month. They also drew 1-1 in the first leg of the Copa semifinals at Camp Nou. They can only meet again this season in the Champions League. Barca drew with Lyon 1-1 in its first-leg match in the round of 16.
Japanese midfielder Takashi Inui scored a second-half winner as Alaves defeated relegation-threatened Villarreal 2-1 to move into fourth spot, the final Champions League position.
Sevilla wasted a chance to go fourth by losing 2-1 at bottom club Huesca after conceding eight minutes into second-half stoppage time. Defeat extended Sevilla’s winless streak to five league games, dropping it to sixth place.
Wu Lei became the first Chinese player to score in the Spanish league when he struck in Espanyol’s 3-1 win against Valladolid.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 2, 2019
By: Tales Azzoni. AP Sports Writer