MADRID, March 21 — FC Barcelona outplayed Real Madrid for almost the entire 90 minutes to claim a crushing 4-0 win in the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele led a dominant all-round performance from Barca, which serves to confirm the massive turnaround in their form since the arrival of Xavi Hernandez as a coach and the January signings of Ferran Torres and Aubameyang.
While Xavi preferred central defender Ronald Araujo at right-back, Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti replaced the injured Karim Benzema with midfielder Fede Valverde, looking for an extra body in midfield and pace on the break alongside Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo Goes.
The trio combined twice in the opening moments with Valverde feeding Rodrygo, who fired just wide after a break, before Vinicius held the ball up well in the Barca area before slipping the ball for Valverde, whose placed shot was well saved by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
Barca reacted immediately as Thibaut Courtois made a double save to deny Aubameyang and then Dembele as the first half opened up, and Barca began to find space between the Madrid midfield and defense.
Nacho was struggling at left-back, Casemiro was unable to close down Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, while David Alaba and Eder Militao looked uncomfortable against Barca’s movement off the ball.
Dembele put the ball on a plate for Aubameyang to open the scoring for Barca in the 29th minute with a cross from the right, which Aubameyang stooped to head in off the far post.
The Frenchman was the provider again in the 38th minute when Araujo doubled Barca’s lead from a corner, with the Madrid defenders left looking at each other.
The home side had totally lost their shape and although Vinicius had a chance to score, he wasted it with an embarrassing dive in front of Ter Stegen.
Ancelotti had to react at half-time and brought on striker Mariano Diaz and midfielder Eduardo Camavinga for Kroos and Dani Carvajal, switching to a three-man defense, but the tactic backfired.
It should have been 3-0 just 25 seconds into the second half when Torres was put through the middle of the Madrid defense, but with time to pick his spot and just Courtois to beat, he fired wide.
Torres made no mistake a minute later as Barca again found acres of space and Aubameyang backheeled to the Spaniard, who slotted the ball into the far corner.
It was 4-0 in the 52nd minute when Torres controlled a long ball and fed Aubameyang, who clipped it over Courtois and after a delay for a VAR check, the goal was given despite the protests of the Real Madrid players.
Aubameyang should have completed his hat-trick minutes later but slid the ball wide of the far post when a goal looked certain after Torres’ low cross. Courtois then did well to deny Torres as Barca again cut through the Madrid defense.
The Real Madrid keeper made another good save to deny Memphis Depay, while Dembele sidefooted just wide as the game began to peter out.
Although Real Madrid still has a nine-point lead at the top of La Liga, this win ends a run of five consecutive defeats for Barca against their main rivals and fans will hope it means a shift in the balance of power under Xavi. (Xinhua)