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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Kessie’s Stoppage-Time Winner Sends Barcelona 12 Points Clear in LaLiga

A stoppage-time winner was scored by Frank Kessie to give Barcelona a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in Sunday’s Clasico at Camp Nou, taking a massive 12-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid with 12 games of the La Liga season remaining.

Real Madrid was put ahead in just the ninth minute through a freak own goal from Ronald Araujo, but a deserved equalizer was claimed by Barcelona through Sergi Roberto’s composed finish right on the stroke of half-time.

With nine minutes remaining, Real Madrid thought they had a potentially vital winner when substitute Marco Asensio turned in Dani Carvajal’s cross. However, after a long VAR review, it was ruled that Asensio had initially been in an offside position.

Instead, in the second minute of stoppage time, Kessie turned in a cut-back from Alex Balde to send the Camp Nou crowd wild with delight as Madrid surged forward in search of a winning goal they surely needed to maintain realistic hopes of overhauling their opponents’ LaLiga lead.

A draw may well have been enough for Barcelona, but they now have a massive 12-point cushion and a first title in four years is within touching distance for Xavi Hernandez’s side.

The game had already witnessed more shots on goal within the first 10 minutes than the last meeting between the sides, which Barcelona won 1-0 in the Copa del Rey semifinal first leg earlier this month.

Out of very little, Vinicius Junior chipped a cross back from near the byline down the left and Araujo found his head in the wrong place at the wrong time to divert the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen at his near post, opening the scoring with an own goal.

As the opening half reached its conclusion, Barcelona cranked up the pressure once more to go into half-time with the scores level. Madrid did their best to keep the hosts at bay but after a Raphinha effort was well blocked the ball fell to Sergi Roberto, who struck a perfectly placed side-footed effort to beat Courtois from 12 yards.

The two sides exchanged chances at the start of the second half, but it was Madrid that needed the win more and as the clock ticked past the hour mark, coach Carlo Ancelotti duly went to his substitute bench for two attack-minded substitutions — bringing on Rodrygo and Ferland Mendy for Toni Kroos and Nacho.

As the game reached the final 10 minutes, Madrid poured forward in search of a title-race-changing goal. But, with the help of VAR, Barcelona survived before Kessie stuck a late dagger into Madrid’s hopes of retaining their title. With Pep Guardiola in attendance, Barcelona was aiming to win three straight Clasicos for the first time since the now-Man City boss was in charge at Camp Nou during the 2011-12 season.

The opening minutes saw Barcelona pressing high and with ferocious intensity, having Madrid rattled. Thibaut Courtois had to be at his best to keep out efforts from Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha while Sergi Roberto shot just over the bar.

The goal was the first Barcelona had conceded from open play at home in La Liga this season and dented their early momentum as Madrid gained confidence and composure.

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