[DERBY DAY] Sunday's Barcelona-Real Madrid match was the first El Clasico for Real stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, but Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic, another player making his El Clasico debut, stole the show, coming off the bench to score on a volley and give Barcelona a 1-0 win that propelled the Catalan club back into first place in La Liga.
Ibrahimovic's eighth league goal -- second behind only Valencia star David Villa's 10 -- came in the 56th minute, only
minutes after he replaced Thierry Henry.
Brazilian Dani Alves served a ball across the face of the Real
goal, and the Swede met the ball and slotted a left-footed volley past Iker Casillas.
"It's a very happy moment because it was my first 'Clasico',"
Ibrahimovic said. "It was a fantastic atmosphere, I'm really happy."
Ibrahimovic was playing his first game in three weeks after suffering a hamstring injury.
"When you come
into a game from the bench it's not easy because the first sprint that you do, you are very tired because your pulse is like 200," the Swede said. "But Dani gave me a good cross, I just tried to hit
the ball and it went in."
The game was billed as the first Clasico between Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who like Ibrahimovic
were coming off injuries.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi started for Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively, and had excellent games. It was Ronald's first start for Real since the end of
September. Messi was coming off a thigh injury that kept him out of Barca's midweek Champions League game against Inter Milan.
Messi dictated the pace early, but Ronaldo had the best
chance of the first half, side-footing a shot was saved brilliantly by Barca goalie Victor Valdes.
"We at least deserved a draw because, if I am
not mistaken, we had a lot of shots on their goal in the first half," said Real coach Manuel Pellegrini. "We had two clear chances with Cristiano and Marcelo as well as some good counterattacks. Barca never dominated the game and I don't go along with the idea that Ibrahimovic changed the game. They didn't
dominate with or without him. He scored the goal which was important but I don't think he changed the game."
Both teams finished with 10 men after midfielders Sergi Busquets and Lass Diarra were sent off in separate incidents following Ibrahimovic's goal.
Nov. 29 in Barcelona
Barcelona 1 Real Madrid 0. Goal: Ibrahimovic 56.
Barcelona -- Valdes, Dani
Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Keita (Toure, 66), Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Henry (Ibrahimovic, 51).
Real Madrid -- Casillas, Ramos, Pepe, Albiol,
Arbeloa (Raul, 74), Lassana Diarra, Alonso, Kaka. Ronaldo (Benzema, 66). Marcelo, Higuain.
Red Cards: Barcelona -- Busquets 63; Real Madrid -- L.Diarra
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco.