Vinicius Junior broke Barcelona’s resistance and substitute Mariano Diaz added a second as Real Madrid leapfrogged their bitter rivals at the top of LaLiga with a 2-0 win in Sunday’s Clasico.
December’s reverse fixture finished goalless for the first time in 17 years and that was the way this latest tussle at Santiago Bernabeu was heading until Vinicius struck with a deflected effort.
Thibaut Courtois and Marc-Andre ter Stegen made vital saves with the game at 0-0 and both teams had efforts stopped on the line.
But Vinicius found a way through 19 minutes from time and Mariano added a second late on to end Madrid’s seven-match winless league run in this fixture as Zidane’s side moved a point clear at the summit.
Toni Kroos returned to Madrid’s starting line-up and blazed over the crossbar from the game’s first chance, shortly before Antoine Griezmann did likewise up the other end.
Barcelona lead the scoring charts in LaLiga this term, but no side has conceded fewer than Madrid and Courtois showed why with a couple of big first-half saves.
The Belgium international closed the angle to deny Arthur from a one-on-one and reacted well to keep out Lionel Messi’s snapshot four minutes later.
Ter Stegen made his first big save of the game 11 minutes into the second half to keep out a curler from Isco, who also had a header blocked on the line by Gerard Pique.
Madrid continued to build some momentum and saw another chance come and go when Karim Benzema volleyed over Dani Carvajal’s cross at the far post.
Barca appeared to have weathered the storm and nearly scored against the run of play when Martin Braithwaite’s shot was cleared off the line by Raphael Varane.
But Vinicius deservedly fired the hosts in front after being played in behind by Kroos and slotting past Ter Stegen with the aid of a telling deflection off Pique.
And after near-misses for Pique and Vinicius at either end, Mariano sprinted past Samuel Umtiti and scuffed a shot over Ter Stegen just 50 seconds after being introduced from the bench to seal a vital win.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Real Madrid (4-1-4-1): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro; Valverde (Vazquez 86), Isco (Modric 79), Kroos, Vinicius Junior; Benzema (Mariano 90+1)
Subs not used: Areola, Militao, Bale, Mendy
Goals: Vinicius Junior (71), Mariano (90+2)
Bookings: Carvajal, Vinicius
Barcelona (4-4-2): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Vidal (Braithwaite 69), Arthur (Rakitic 80), Busquets, de Jong; Messi, Griezmann (Fati 81)
Subs not used: Neto, Lenglet, Firpo, Collado
Bookings: Alba, Messi
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz