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Barcelona defeat Real Madrid in Spanish 'Clasico'
Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the only goal for Barcelona against arch-rivals Real Madrid as the Catalans leapfrogged the "Galacticos" to take the top spot in the Spanish Liga.
AFP - Swedish supersub Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the hero as 10-man Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 1-0 in an enthralling 'El Clasico' at Camp Nou to move top of the table by two points on Sunday
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who was exceptional, both started but it was Ibrahimovic who stole the limelight volleying in a 56th minute winner just five minutes after coming on.
Barca were reduced to 10 men when Sergi Busquets stupidly handballed just after the hour mark and needed some heroics from captain Carles Puyol, who produced three crucial blocks, against a Real side that missed some clear-cut chances.
It was a third successive Clasico win for Barca who are still unbeaten this season and nudge Real off the summit holding a two-point lead over their rivals.
Ronaldo started for the first time since the end of September with Real coach Manuel Pellegrini feeling his ankle was strong enough.
Ronaldo's return saw Karim Benzema drop to the bench while captain Raul had to be content with a place on the bench.
Barcelona started with Messi who shrugged off a thigh strain but Ibrahimovic was on the bench with a thigh strain of his own so Thierry Henry kept his place in attack.
It was touted as the Clasico between Real's 'Galacticos', the most expensive team on the planet, and the homegrown talent of Barca's 'cantera' who the most successful team on the planet last season when they won a unique treble.
Real were second best in terms of posession and Messi looked match fit as he thrust at the Real defence twisting Pepe inside out but Henry's poor low shot ended the danger.
Barca were passing like they can do but Real were looking the more dangerous.
On 19 minutes Ronaldo should have scored after Kaka cut inside before sliding the ball accross goal but Ronaldo's side-footed shot was saved brilliantly by Victor Valdes using his trailing foot.
It was then Barca captain Puyol's turn for a heroic block to deny Marcelo on 29 minutes.
Ibrahimovic came on for Henry minutes into the second half and had an immediate impact on his Clasico debut scoring the opener five minutes after coming on.
Dani Alves curled a delightful ball across the face of goal and Ibrahimovic arrived on cue guiding a left-footed volley past Iker Casillas.
Barca looked in control but Busquets was then sent off for handball just after the hour mark and Pep Guardiola was furious with his midfielder.
Real threw on Benzema but Barca should have made it 2-0 but Gerard Pique headed wide.
Down to ten men Barca still attacked although Real had chances with Ronaldo heading over and Puyol producing another great block to thwart Benzema.
Real substitute Raul skied from right in front of goal while Casillas pulled off a wonder save to deny Messi at the death.
Madrid's Lass Diarra was sent off in the closing stages for hacking down Xavi after Barca pinged the ball about like they were in training.
Earlier former Real Madrid striker Roberto Soldado scored his second hat-trick of the season as Getafe heaped more misery on bottom side Xerez with a 5-1 thrashing at the Coliseum on Sunday.
Promoted Xerez actually took the lead with only their fourth goal of the season but Soldado equalised on 44 minutes and then netted his second 60 seconds later from the penalty spot.
To make matters worse Xerez had David Prieto sent off for giving away the penalty for a foul on Daniel Parejo.
Getafe exploited the numerical advantage scoring three times in as many minutes with Soldado wrapping up his hat-trick on 58 minutes.
It was a second treble for the striker following his hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Racing Santander.
In other matches, Deportivo La Coruna moved level on points with Valencia in fourth thanks to a 1-0 win at Racing Santander.
Atletico Madrid are also in action later when they host Espanyol at the Vicente Calderon.