Ivan Rakitic’s strike makes the difference

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Manchester City back on top of Premier League table with a narrow win

La Liga leader Barcelona won a tight and tense ‘Clasico’ 1-0 at Real Madrid on Saturday, beating its great rival at its Bernabeu home for the second time in four days and moving a staggering 12 points clear of Real in the standings.

Croatia international Ivan Rakitic struck the only goal of the game midway through the first half, delivering an ice-cool finish over Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois after being played in by a clever pass by Sergi Roberto.

Good defending

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were largely kept quiet in a shy display from the champion in which its defenders Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet were the heroes instead, bravely putting their bodies in the way to snuff out Madrid.

The win also took Barca ahead of Real in the history books, with 96 wins in the ‘Clasico’ to its rival’s 95, while it recorded four consecutive league wins away to Real for the first time.

Real was left to reflect on a third consecutive home defeat in all competitions for the first time since 2004 and now has only one realistic objective for this season — retaining the Champions League which it has monopolised since 2016.

Vinicius threatens but…

Madrid was less buccaneering than in Wednesday’s defeat and Brazilian teenager Vinicius Jr was its most dangerous threat once again but was again let down by his wayward shooting.

Vinicius tore down Barca’s left side early on as Real took the game to Barca but when the ball fell to Luka Modric, Pique quickly delivered a block to kill the danger, something that became a familiar sight as the game progressed.

Barca could have taken the lead when Messi latched onto a pass and was clean through on goal, albeit with a difficult angle, but his shot drifted wide.

Rakitic found himself in a similar position soon afterwards but he kept his nerve, calmly chipping over Courtois to score.

Barca was left fuming at halftime when Real captain Sergio Ramos appeared to strike Messi in the face after winning a tackle but the Spaniard escaped a booking, although he was shown a yellow card later in the game.

It was a rare moment of needle in an unusually uneventful game between Spain’s two biggest clubs.

Meanwhile in the Premier League, substitute Riyad Mahrez scored the only goal as Manchester City beat Bournemouth 1-0 at the Vitality Stadium to return to the top of the table.

Tottenham’s first league draw of the season allowed Manchester United to make up ground with a 3-2 comeback win that included two goals from Romelu Lukaku and moved them one point above Arsenal into fourth place.

The results:

La Liga: Villarreal 1 (Cazorla 61-pen) lost to Alaves 2 (Maripan 54, Inui 77); Huesca 2 (Anor 7, Avila 90+8) bt Sevilla 1 (Ben Yedder 84-pen); Real Madrid 0 lost to Barcelona 1 (Rakitic 26).

Premier League: Bournemouth 0 lost to Manchester City 1 (Mahrez 55); Brighton 1 (Andone 79) lost to Huddersfield 0; Burnley 1 (Barnes 90) lost to Crystal Palace 3 (Bardsley 15-og, Batshuayi 48, Zaha 76); Manchester United 3 (Pereira 53, Lukaku 59, 89) bt Southampton 2 (Valery 26, Ward-Prowse 75); Wolves 2 (Jota 16, Jimenez 18) bt Cardiff 0; West Ham 2 (Rice 7, Noble 42-pen) bt Newcastle 0.

Bundesliga: Schalke 04 0 lost to Fortuna Dusseldorf 4 (Lukebakio 35-pen, Kownacki 62, 84, Raman 68); Bayer Leverkusen 2 (Aranguiz 4, Bailey 73) bt Freiburg 0; Eintracht Frankfurt 3 (Kostic 20, Haller 89, Paciencia 90+6) bt Hoffenheim 2 (Joelinton 43, Belfodil 60).

Hertha Berlin 2 (Grujic 50, Stark 60) bt Mainz 05 1 (Stark 46-og); Nuremberg 0 lost to RB Leipzig 1 (Klostermann 40); Borussia Moenchengladbach 1 (Stindl 37) lost to Bayern Munich 5 (Martinez 2, Mueller 11, Lewandowski 47, 90-pen, Gnabry 75).

Serie A: Empoli 3 (Dell’Orco 18, Caputo 59-pen, Silvestre 90+1) drew with Parma 3 (Gervinho 13, Rigoni 45+1, Bruno Alves 82).

AC Milan 1 (Lirola 35-og) bt Sassuolo 0; Lazio 3 (Caicedo 12, Immobile 72-pen, Cataldi 89) bt Roma 0.

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