201210 Benzema
Real Madrid's Karim Benzema. Image Credit: Reuters

Real Madrid beat Barcelona in El Clasico to go to the top of the LaLiga table for the first time since last year.

Zinedine Zidane’s Spanish side, missing key defender Sergio Ramos, secured a tight 2-1 victory with a goal each from Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos with the first 30 minutes of the game, right on the heels of the team’s Champions League quarterfinal win against Liverpool.

Oscar Mingueza managed to net one for Barca in the second half but his side failed to secure a much-needed equaliser, as Casemiro was sent off in the 90th minute after racking up two bookings in the span of a minute.

This was Madrid’s third consecutive win against Barca in all competitions — the first time they pull off this feat since 1978.

Benzema found himself in big company as he became one of four players in the club’s history to score in seven consecutive LaLiga matches; he joined Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

Real Madrid — who haven’t lost any of their last five fixtures — are now top of the LaLiga table with 66 points, equal to Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand and will only need a tie to surpass them. Barcelona are only one point behind at 65.

Return of the referee who gave Messi a red

Jesus Gil Manzano, who famously sent Lionel Messi off in the Supercopa, came in as a last-minute replacement for ref Antonio Mateu Lahoz, who was ruled out of officiating the match due to a muscle injury.

Manzano made history earlier this year, when he showed Messi the first red of his club career during the Supercopa de Espana final in January. Athletic Bilbao went on to win that game.