Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema's nightmare day as Madrid title bid hurt
Barcelona humiliated Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday with a 3-0 victory that consolidated the leaders' position at the top of La Liga.
After a scrappy first half, Ivan Rakitic strolled through the midfield and gave Sergi Roberto the chance to set up Luis Suarez for the opening goal. Just 10 minutes later, Dani Carvajal was sent off after he handled the ball on the line, and Lionel Messi slotted the penalty home for a record 25th Clasico goal.
On a nightmare afternoon, Aleix Vidal applied gloss to the victory in added time with a shot that squirmed under Keylor Navas' body.
The result leaves Real Madrid languishing in fourth place, 14 points behind leaders Barcelona.
The Real Madrid players emerged from the match without any injury concerns. Beyond that? Nothing. Nada.
Barcelona decided not to welcome Real Madrid to the pitch with a guard of honour following their rivals' victory at the Club World Cup. In the end, it was Madrid who lined up and meekly allowed Barcelona to waltz through them to victory. The defeat was bad. The limp nature of it was worse.
In Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic, the home side had two holding midfielders on the pitch. In theory, that should have prevented situations like the one that led to Suarez's goal, when Rakitic strode through the centre.
Manager rating out of 10
3 -- Zinedine Zidane was tactically out-thought by Ernesto Valverde, who came with a plan and enacted it perfectly.
Zidane's decision to leave Isco on the bench was curious, given that no other Madrid player had the guile to unpick Barcelona's stodgy defence. Pressure is building on the 45-year-old's shoulders. The spectre of Paris Saint-Germain is looming in the Champions League, and if the Parisians manage to scythe through his side with the same ease as Barca, president Florentino Perez may have a big, big decision to make over the coach's future.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)
GK Keylor Navas, 5 -- Denied Paulinho in the first half with a razor-sharp save and used neat chest control to pacify a lively backpass from Toni Kroos. Things got worse as the match went on, though. Vidal's shot squirmed under his body for Barcelona's third goal -- it will be a shame if that is Navas' final contribution before the possible arrival of Athletic Bilbao's Arrizabalaga Kepa in January.
DF Dani Carvajal, 4 -- The full-back was lucky to avoid an early booking for leaving a foot in on Andres Iniesta. He trotted off without complaint after receiving a red card for a handball on the line, reminiscent of Suarez at the 2014 World Cup for Uruguay against Ghana. It was instinctive, yet idiotic.
DF Raphael Varane, 5 -- Keys, phone, wallet and Suarez: the contents of Varane's pocket in the first half. After the break, Varane was gradually exposed as the Madrid midfield became porous.
DF Sergio Ramos, 5 -- Picked up his customary booking just before the hour mark. Water is wet, the sky is blue, and so on and so forth. Like Varane, he was a victim of Barcelona emphatically winning the battle in midfield.
DF Marcelo, 4 -- Had more touches (72) than any other Madrid player, which reflected how Barcelona's compact 4-4-2 formation forced the home side to play through Marcelo and Carvajal on the flanks.
MF Casemiro, 3 -- His main task in the first half was tracking the darting runs of his compatriot Paulinho. He only made one interception before being withdrawn after 71 minutes as Barcelona players swarmed around him.
MF Luka Modric, 5 -- Prominent in the early stages with dashing runs forward from midfield. He faded later on as Sergio Busquets planted his flag in the centre circle and declared it his territory.
MF Toni Kroos, 5 -- The Germany international was steady but only completed 83 percent of his passes, which is well below his league average of 91.4 percent.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 3 -- Stuck to Busquets like a rash initially, and then got well-acquainted with Messi as he fulfilled his man-marking duties. But when the time came to do the dirty work, Kovacic was lackadaisical. His attempt to stop Rakitic waltzing through the centre in the build-up to Barcelona's goal was pathetic.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 -- Chants of "Campeones" rolled around the Bernabeu before kick-off as Ramos held the Club World Cup trophy aloft. Ronaldo continued the jubilant atmosphere after two minutes with a header in off the bar, but he had strayed offside. He showed flashes of the Ronaldo of 2008, with gallops down the flanks, but he ultimately failed to make a meaningful impact.
FW Karim Benzema, 3 -- Headed the ball against the post following a darting run to the near post -- the sixth time this season he has struck the woodwork. Otherwise, the French striker was anonymous. He had the fewest touches of the ball (29) than any other starting player, including Madrid keeper Navas.
DF Nacho, 5 -- Came on after Carvajal's dismissal left a hole in the defence.
FW Gareth Bale, N/R -- Unable to rescue Madrid from the jaws of humiliation, as he did against Fuenlabrada and Al Jazira. Denied by ter Stegen from close range. Should have scored.
MF Marco Asensio, N/R -- Entered the fray at the same time as Bale and added little more than an injection of energy.
Matt McGinn is ESPN FC's Real Madrid blogger. Twitter: @McGinn93