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No joy for Suarez as Real beat Barca

Real Madrid beat La Liga leaders Barcelona 3-1 in the 'Clasico' on Saturday.

FILE: Barcelona striker Luis Suarez. Picture: AFP

MADRID - Real Madrid trimmed Barcelona's lead at the top of La Liga to one point when they recovered from letting in an early goal to secure a stirring 3-1 comeback win in the 'Clasico' on Saturday.

There was no dream return for Luis Suarez, making his Barca debut after a four-month ban for biting an opponent at the World Cup.

The Uruguay forward looked reasonably sharp and had a hand in Neymar's opening goal but did not come close to scoring himself before being replaced by Pedro midway through the second half.

Neymar stunned a packed and hostile Bernabeu with a superb fourth-minute effort before Cristiano Ronaldo levelled with a penalty in the 35th, the first goal the Catalan side had conceded in nine league outings this term.

Pepe made it 2-1 to the European champions five minutes into the second half and a misunderstanding between Andres Iniesta and Javier Mascherano led to Real's third after the hour when Karim Benzema finished off a swift break with a clinical strike.

"The team was incredible across the board," Real defender Sergio Ramos told Spanish television.

"We had very clear ideas, we dominated and we not only controlled possession of the ball but we were very good on the counter attack," added the Spain international.

"Football is about phases of a match and you have to know how to read them. We fought for the ball and they are not used to that and we did them damage."

Barca are top with 22 points and Real, who had an early-season wobble but have been in scintillating form in recent weeks, second on 21. Sevilla, who host Villarreal on Sunday, are third with 19.

Four-times World Player of the Year Lionel Messi had a quiet night for Barca and remains one goal short of the league scoring record of 251 set by former Athletic Bilbao forward Telmo Zarra six decades ago.

"We played a very good first half," said Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta.

"We had some good chances to unbalance them but the 3-1 caused us a lot of damage and we struggled," added the former Barca and Spain goalkeeper.

FIRST BLOOD

In a match watched by millions around the globe and showcasing many of the world's best and most expensive players, Barca drew first blood through Neymar, the Brazil captain's ninth league goal of the season.

Suarez picked him out on the left wing with a raking pass and Neymar skipped past challenges from Dani Carvajal and Pepe before firing into the corner past keeper Iker Casillas.

Real immediately upped their game and Benzema came close when he headed against the crossbar before smashing the rebound off the corner of the goal frame.

Casillas pulled off a superb save to deny Messi in the 23rd minute after Suarez had sent over a teasing low cross and Pepe cleared just as Neymar was preparing to nod home before Real were awarded a penalty.

Barca centre back Gerard Pique slipped and handled a Marcelo cross and Ronaldo sent Claudio Bravo the wrong way for his 16th La Liga goal in eight appearances this season.

It was the 11th consecutive game the Portugal forward has scored for Real, his best run since joining from Manchester United in 2009.

Real edged ahead when Pepe was given too much space at a corner and headed powerfully past Bravo before Barca shot themselves in the foot with a bizarre blunder by Iniesta and Mascherano near the edge of the pitch that gifted possession to Isco.

The Spain playmaker raced clear and the ball eventually found its way to Benzema who smashed it past Bravo off a post.

It was no more than Real deserved and although Barca pressed hard to force a way back into the game they barely troubled the home goal again.

It was Real's 71st victory in 169 La Liga 'Clasicos' since the arch rivals first clashed in the top flight in 1929. Barca have won 66 with 32 draws.

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