Luis Enrique: Real won, but it’s Barca that lead league

Date published: Sunday 3rd April 2016 9:03

Luka Modric: Earns place in Combined XI midfield

Luka Modric: Earns place in Combined XI midfield

Luis Enrique said Barcelona’s El Clasico loss to Real Madrid would soon be forgotten as they refocus on their treble bid.

Barca’s 39-game unbeaten run was brought to an end by their arch-rivals at the Nou Camp as Cristiano Ronaldo struck in the 85th minute to secure a 2-1 victory for 10-man Real.

The loss was undoutedly a disappointment, but the Catalans still hold a six-point lead at the top of La Liga, are still in the Champions League and are also through to the Copa del Rey final.

Luis Enrique said in his post-match press conference: “What happened can happen in any game.

“We have to go forward and stand up and think about the Champions League. We’re leaders and the one that wins is the most consistent. So far, we are.

“For me, this game no longer exists. What’s left is very important. We have to reinforce what we’ve been doing well and see what can be improved.

“We come from a lot of games without losing but defeat also teaches you things.”

Barca were second best for most of the game but created the better clear-cut chances in the first half and then took the lead with a powerful Gerard Pique header in the 56th minute.

Real quickly responded with a superb equaliser from Karim Benzema and pressed ahead for a winner even after the late sending off of captain Sergio Ramos for a second bookable offence – his fourth Clasico dismissal.

Gareth Bale had a header controverisally disallowed, but the Welshman overcame the disapointment to set up the winner for Ronaldo.

The result meant victory for Zinedine Zidane in his first Clasico as Real head coach.

Zidane said in his press conference: “I’m very happy for everything. We struggled at first but I’m very proud of what the players did. I am happy with the win and the performance.

“We made a huge effort against very good players. When you see the team playing together it is the best thing for a coach.”

Atletico cut gap on Barca

Barca’s lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga is now cut to six points, with Real just another point further behind.

Atletico turned the heat up on Barca earlier on Saturday with a 5-1 mauling of Real Betis.

The Rojiblancos, who face Luis Enrique’s men in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final in midweek, were set on the way to their biggest win of the season thanks to first-half goals from Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann.

Angel Correa then had an immediate impact after coming on for Torres in the second half, setting up further strikes for Juanfran and Griezmann, who restored Atletico’s three-goal lead after Ruben Castro had reduced the deficit on the rebound.

Fellow substitute Thomas Partey completed the rout in stoppage time.

Valencia lose again

Also on Saturday, Valencia’s troubles deepened as they crashed to a 2-1 loss at Las Palmas in new coach Pako Ayestaran’s first game in charge.

Ayestaran replaced the sacked Gary Neville on Wednesday and saw his side get off to a dream start when Rodrigo Moreno gave them the lead with less than three minutes gone after a gift from Las Palmas goalkeeper Javi Varas.

But the hosts responded by outplaying Valencia and levelled early in the second half through Jonathan Viera’s penalty, before Shkrodan Mustafi put through his own net on 63 minutes.

The result condemned Los Che to a fourth consecutive league defeat which left them 15th in the table and six points above the relegation zone.

Valencia have to play top-six sides Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Villarreal in four of their last seven league games.

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