Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi scored in the final 10 minutes to give Barcelona a 2-0 win over Real Madrid, spoiling the Spanish league return of the defending champion's new coach Juande Ramos on Saturday.
|Samuel Eto'o reacts to his goal [GALLO/GETTY]
Captain Carles Puyol headed Xavi Hernandez's corner towards goal and Eto'o, who had missed a penalty 13 minutes earlier, deflected the ball home from close range in the 83rd minute.
Messi then chipped past Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas in injury time, with defender Fabio Cannavaro failing in a desperate attempt to clear the ball off the goalline.
Barcelona's win in the "el clasico'' watched by over 96,000 spectators at a wet Camp Nou extended its unbeaten league run to 14 games, 12 of which it has won, and stretched its lead over its archrival to 12 points.
Madrid has lost four of the past five games.
Ramos, who replaced fired Bernd Schuster on Tuesday to become Madrid's eighth coach in 5½ years, had made a positive start at Madrid with Wednesday's 3-0 win over Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League.
Valencia into second
Meanwhile, Valencia moved into second place after Raul Albiol's and Vicente Rodriguez's second-half goals helped their team rally to a 2-1 win over a 10-man Espanyol.
Barcelona leads with 38 points, while Valencia has 30, one more than Villarreal. Sevilla follows with 27, one clear of Madrid.
Villarreal visits Sevilla on Sunday.
Ramos lacked the services of a host of injured players including striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and defenders Pepe and Gabriel Heinze, while forward Arjen Robben and left back Marcelo were suspended.
However, the coach whose previous Spanish league appearance came with Sevilla in October 2007 before his move to Tottenham, saw his new team limit Barcelona's goal chances in the first half.
The home team, which had amassed 44 goals in its previous 13 league games, began brightly.
Casillas saved from Messi in the sixth minute and Thierry Henry shot narrowly wide shortly afterward.
However, Barcelona lost its verve as Messi was subjected to some fierce Madrid tackling, with defender Sergio Ramos and midfielder Royston Drenthe receiving yellow cards for fouls on the Argentine in the 28th and 42nd.
The clearest chance of the first half fell to Drenthe, who broke past the Barcelona defense in the 26th only to send a tame shot which goalkeeper Victor Valdes saved easily.
Ten minutes later, Madrid midfielder Wesley Sneijder, doubtful before the game, limped off to be replaced by debutant Miguel Palanca.
Barcelona began the second half with two volleys from Eto'o but again struggled to create more chances, leading to the 64th-minute substitution of Eidur Gudjohnsen by Sergio Busquets.
Busquets was blocked by Madrid right back Michel Salgado five minutes later, leading to the awarding of Barcelona's penalty.
The team's hopes of a goal were dashed when Casillas dived to parry the spot kick by Eto'o and deny the Cameroon striker his 15th goal of the season.
With Barcelona looking more dangerous, Casillas saved again from Eto'o two minutes later although Valdes was called into the action in the 78th to save from Palanca.
Espanyol opening goal
Espanyol took the lead at Valencia's Mestalla Stadium in the 28th minute when midfielder Roman Martinez delivered a shot from outside the area which was deflected off Spain defender Albiol.
However, Francisco Perez Rufete was sent off 10 minutes later after a handball drew the midfielder his second yellow card.
Albiol broke Espanyol's resistance in the 58th with an angled shot after the visitors failed to clear a corner.
Two minutes later, Valencia midfielder David Silva made his return from a three-month injury layoff.
Vicente, who had replaced Juanma Mata moments earlier as Valencia's third substitute, slotted home the winning goal from a fine angle from David Villa's pass in the 81st.
Valencia's win was only its third in eight league games.
Espanyol, which was playing its second match under coach Mane Esnal, stayed in 18th with 13 points, having gained just one point from its past six matches.
Also on Sunday, it's: Getafe vs. Mallorca; Recreativo Huelva vs. Osasuna; Valladolid vs. Deportivo La Coruna; Malaga vs. Numancia; Almeria vs. Racing Santander; Athletic Bilbao vs. Sporting Gijon; and Atletico Madrid vs. Real Betis.