Lionel Messi celebrates his goal in El Clasico against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. (Getty)
The knockout blow had been coming. Not because Barcelona had been untouchable, nor simply better. Rather, because Madrid had, but hadn’t converted superiority into goals.
It has been the story of the 2017-18 La Liga season, and specifically the title race: Real Madrid intense and energetic, but wasteful; Barcelona delightful and opportunistic. The first Clasico of the league campaign was simply another chapter of the story. An intense, high-quality, momentous one. And, incredibly, maybe the final one.
Barcelona went to the Santiago Bernabeu, and went 14 points clear of its rival with a 3-0 victory. With Lionel Messi the focus of Madrid attention, three of his teammates – Ivan Rakitic, Sergi Roberto and Luis Suarez – combined to punctuate a dazzling, clinical counterattack and break a second-half deadlock: