Neymar scored in his first Clasico and set up Alexis Sanchez for an exquisite strike as Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-1 at Camp Nou.
Neymar netted from close range in the 19th minute after receiving Andres Iniesta’s pass as the Brazil striker outshone fellow newcomer and rival Gareth Bale.
Bale failed to produce a shot on goal before being replaced by Karim Benzema with half an hour to go. Benzema went on to hit the woodwork as Madrid threatened to equalize before Alexis took Neymar’s pass and sealed the victory in the 78th with a brilliant chip.
Substitute Jese Rodriguez got Madrid’s consolation in injury time.
Neymar followed in the footsteps of former Brazilian standouts Romario and Rivaldo, who scored in their first matches for the Catalan club against Madrid.
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino was careful not to overpraise Neymar, while also giving credit to Messi for his workrate.
“The transcendence of this game and the goal he scored magnified the level of his performance,” Martino said about Neymar. “But I think he has had better games than tonight. As far as what [Messi] did for the team to recover the ball, I give him a superlative mark.”
The victory was Barcelona’s ninth in the league this season which, with one draw, puts them four points clear of Atletico Madrid, who host Real Betis today. Real are now six points adrift after also losing 1-0 to Atletico last month.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti said: “I think we played good football against a fantastic team. At this moment, it was a good test. We are improving.”
Bale made his second start of the season after being hampered by muscle injuries but didn’t prove to be effective in attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. While Neymar sparkled, Bale was limited to a pair of harmless long-range attempts as Madrid failed to muster a shot on target until a minute before halftime.
Real did gain ground as the second half wore on and Benzema crack ed a shot off the woodwork in the 72nd minute. But Neymar helped Alexis secure the three points when he spotted the Chilean substitute’s run. Alexis coolly lofted the ball over defender Raphael Varane and goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
“I didn’t have any other option,” Alexis said. “I saw the goalkeeper coming forward and I had to try it. Fortunately, it went in.”