Luis Suarez's return to football ended in defeat asReal Madrid claimed victory over Barcelona in the first Clasico of the season.
The Uruguayan made his first competitive appearance following his fourth-month ban from the sport for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, with Luis Enrique handing the striker a place in the starting line-up.
However, he failed to make an impact as Los Blancos blew away their Catalan rivals with an astonishing display of pacy, counter-attacking football at the Bernabeu.
The result means that Carlo Ancelotti’s side have closed the gap on Barca to just a single point at the top of the Spanish Liga table, completing an impressive week for Real following their Champions League win over Liverpool on Wednesday.
Neymar had given the visitors an early lead with a well-taken finish, only for Cristiano Ronaldo to net from the spot after a blatant handball by Gerard Pique.
Pepe then gave Real the lead five minutes into the second half, with Karim Benzema adding a third just after the hour mark, finishing off a rapid counter-attacking move with a sweet finish off the inside of the post.
Suarez was withdrawn with 20 minutes left, as Real Madrid claimed a crucial victory in their efforts to secure a first Liga title in three years.
PRE-MATCH: Luis Suarez is handed a start for Barcelona as he returned from a four-month ban from football.
5’ - GOAL! Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona: Barcelona have the opener! Neymar cuts inside and angles a right-footed shot into the corner of Casillas' net! Suarez with the assist.
7’ - BENZEMA CHANCE: Benzema comes close to scoring an equaliser immediately! Rodriguez plays a wonderful pass in behind the Barca defence for the striker, whose flick past Bravo flashes just past the post.
12’ - WOODWORK: Ronaldo hits the bar with a header! The rebound falls at the feet of Benzema, who takes a touch and smashes a strike at goal, but Bravo is on hand to make an astonishing close range save!
23’ - MESSI MISS: Messi should have scored! Slack defending from Real Madrid allows the Barcelona number 10 the chance to get on the end of a close a matter of yards out, but he somehow manages to direct the ball wide.
34’ - GOAL! Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona: Pique sticks out a hand while on the ground to block aMarcelo cross, giving Ronaldo the chance to convert from the 12 yard mark.
50’ - GOAL! Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona: Real have taken the lead! Pepe is left completely unmarked from a corner kick, with the centre back powering a header home.
61’ - GOAL! Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona: And Real have a third! They come flying forward on the counter attack, with Benzema finishing after being played in behind the Barca defence.
68’ - SUAREZ OFF: The former Liverpool striker is being withdrawn with just over 20 minutes left to play, with Pedro Rodriguez taking his place.
82’ - RONALDO OPPORTUNITY: Ronaldo should have taken the shot! Real Madrid come surging forward again on the counter, with Benzema playing the ball into Ronaldo, who in turns tries to find Rodriguez when he should have shot!
The last team to have scored as many as 33 goals in the opening 9 games of a La Liga season were also R. Madrid in 1959/60.
Karim Benzema has scored four goals in his last three league games against Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Toni Kroos is Real Madrid’s top assister in La Liga this season with five assists, three of them from set pieces.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in his last 11 games, his best run scoring for Real Madrid.
Was Luis Enrique’s decision to start Luis Suarez the right one? The Barcelona manager’s decision to hand Suarez a first start in the world’s biggest club game might not have backfired as such, but it certainly didn’t pay off. There were some nice touches, but he was largely ineffective at a time when Barca needed their frontline to be firing. Perhaps Enrique should have stuck with the line-up that had worked so well for him up until this point.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid): The French striker has become a big game player for Real Madrid. Benzema has now scored in each of his last three league Clasico games, and was at his fast and furious best against Barca once again. He could have, and probably should have, scored more than just once, proving too much for Pique throughout the game.
Real Madrid: Casillas 6, Marcelo 8, Ramos 7, Pepe 7, Carvajal 8, Kroos 7, Modric 8, Isco 8, Rodriguez 6, Ronaldo 6, Benzema 9. Subs – Illarramendi, Khedira, Arbeloa.
Barcelona: Bravo 6, Alves 5, Mathieu 5, Mascherano 7, Pique 4, Alves 5, Iniesta 5, Busquets 6,Xavi 7, Neymar 7, Messi 5, Suarez 6. Subs – Rakitic 5, Pedro 5, Roberto 4.