Just 23 seconds were on the clock when Karim Benzema scored the fastest goal in the history of El Clásico to move Real Madrid a stride towards going six points clear of Barcelona at Liga’s summit with a game in hand to boot.

Pep Guardiola’s men thereafter demonstrated they have mettle to go with their magic, equalising through Alexis Sanchez, going in front via a Marcelo own-goal and sealing a deserved 3-1 victory thanks to Cesc Fabregas.

It means they will head off the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, where they meet Al-Sadd in Thursday’s semi-final, above Jose Mourinho’s side on goal difference.

I am delighted with the performance. In life you have to choose to be brave or very brave.

Pep Guardiola, Barcelona coach

Guardiola has saluted his charges’ courage, and expressed his delight that, despite playing on enemy territory, Barça responded to their early setback by taking the game to their opponents.

“I have never come here without my players creating chances,” said the 40-year-old. “We had to try. I am delighted with the performance. In life you have to choose to be brave or very brave. To win here you need to play a very good game, and that’s what we did.

“But champions are not crowned in December. Madrid will recover. They remain the leaders if they win in Seville (next Saturday).”

Valdes on cloud nine
Guardiola, a former defensive midfielder who was capped 47 times by Spain, then defended Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who was at fault for Benzema’s opener.

“Winning here is always worthwhile and challenging, and you can see that in the performance of Valdes. After conceding early he did not take another hit. The best thing was that Valdes kept on passing the ball after the goal. That showed his strength and the strength of the team.”

Valdes himself added: “We keep on making history. Another game won at the Bernabeu! Now we’re going to Japan to win the Club World Cup.”