La Liga leaders Barcelona’s pursuit of a 27th Spanish title gained momentum after substitute Franck Kessie scored a stunning goal in added time to secure a 2-1 comeback win over Real Madrid on Sunday.
Barca took a huge step towards winning their first league title in four years by beating the champions for a third successive time. The result left second-placed Real 12 points adrift of the leaders.
Egged on by the roar of almost 100,000 fans in a soldout Camp Nou, Barca were the better side and earned a well-deserved win against a Real Madrid team that at times seemed resigned to their fate.
“We have to be honest... We never gave up, but we are already four games behind them. Nothing is impossible, but the truth is that it’s very difficult to retain the title,” Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told Movistar Plus.
It was an electrifying game from the start with Barcelona pressing high and they almost scored in the sixth minute with a point-blank header by Raphinha that Courtois brilliantly stopped with a reflex save using his right fist.
From the rebound, Sergi Roberto fired a fierce shot inches over the bar.
But it was Real who took an early lead four minutes later after a Vinicius Jr cross deflected off defender Ronald Araujo and went inside his own goal.
Barcelona though were quick to regroup and they took control of the game.
Andreas Christiansen could have scored twice from two corners and Raphinha, who was arguably Barcelona’s most dangerous player, attempted an angled shot from the edge of the area that Courtois denied with another great save.
Real seemed content to sit on their lead but their strategy backfired. At the stroke of halftime, their defence failed to clear the ball from the box and Sergi Roberto quickly pounced to fire an unstoppable strike in.
Barcelona did not take their foot off the gas after the break and created several opportunities but it was Real substitute Marco Asensio who netted a goal that could have changed the script in the 81st minute.
However, his close-range effort was ruled out by VAR after the replay showed he was fractionally offside.
Barca kept pushing for the winner and finally got it in added time when Alejandro Balde raced down the left channel and crossed to Kessie who was left unmarked in the far post. He unleashed an unstoppable strike to give Barca the win of the season.
“It was a happy locker room,” Barcelona coach Xavi said. “We can’t forget where we are coming from. Last year, the gap to Madrid was 12 points, but we were behind. In October we were three points back, so we made up 15 points to Madrid. You have to give credit to how things are being done in this club.”
Barcelona won eight league titles in 11 seasons through 2019. Since then, they finished second to Madrid in 2020, third — behind Madrid and champions Atletico Madrid — in 2021, and second to Madrid again last season without Messi.
This year they have already won the Spanish Super Cup — the team’s first trophy since the 2021 Copa del Rey. The Catalan club was eliminated from both the Champions League and Europa League but remains alive in the Copa.
They are facing Madrid in the semi-finals, having won the first leg 1-0 at the Bernabeu after another solid performance. The return leg is next month at Camp Nou.
Barcelona will need another big result then to keep the spotlight on Xavi’s team and not on the club’s off-the-field problems.