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October 25, 2014

MADRID (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored to spark Real Madrid's 3-1 comeback win over Barcelona in a thrilling "clasico" match Saturday in the Spanish league that handed the visitors their first loss of the season.

The result spoiled a strong Barcelona debut by Luis Suarez, who played well in his first game since a four-month biting ban and set up Neymar to fire in a long strike for a fourth-minute lead at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

But Ronaldo leveled from the penalty spot in the 35th to end Barcelona's record of eight clean sheets to start the season.

Pepe added a header to take the lead in the 50th, and Karim Benzema sealed the win in the 61st after having hit the woodwork twice.

Madrid moved into second place one point behind Barcelona with the win. Sevilla can pull level with Barcelona with a win over Villarreal on Sunday.

"The team was incredible in every aspect," Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. "Even though we fell behind early we always kept clear that we wanted to dominate the match and not relinquish possession to them. There are always different phases of a game and we knew how to read and manage each one."

Barcelona's Lionel Messi entered the game one goal shy of equaling Telmo Zarra's Spanish league scoring record of 251 goals. His best chance to equal the mark came early after another great pass by Suarez, but Iker Casillas did well to save his close-range effort. Other than that, it was an uncharacteristically quiet night for the four-time Ballon d' Or winner.

Ronaldo won the duel of the star players, extending his scoring run to 11 straight games and increasing his league-leading tally to 16 goals through nine rounds. It was also his 21st goal overall this season.

Besides seeing its league lead reduced by its fierce rival, Barcelona also lost Andres Iniesta to a left-leg injury in the second half.

Suarez made Barcelona's starting lineup hours after completing his four-month ban for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in June at the World Cup. Surprisingly, he was the visitors' most incisive player in his 69 minutes despite only having played four friendlies since then.

Billed as one of the most highly anticipated "clasicos" in recent years, the first half did not disappoint.

Both sides created several scoring chances as the momentum swung back and forth amid an electric atmosphere in the Spanish capital.

Suarez showed no signs of being unaccustomed to playing with his teammates when he took the ball from Xavi and spotted Neymar on the left side of the attack.

Neymar controlled Suarez's well-weighted cross, cut back across the top of the box to round Dani Carvajal and Pepe and open an angle before he drilled a right-footed strike past Casillas and into the lower corner of the net.

Benzema had three quick chances to level for the hosts with a toed shot that trickled by the post in the sixth before the striker hit the goalframe twice with a header and attempt to blast in his rebound in the 11th.

Barcelona looked rattled without the ball, and the frustration led to both Messi and Neymar earning bookings by the 14th while trying to win it back.

Suarez then almost set up Messi for a second goal with a pinpoint cross to meet the Argentine's run behind the defense, only for Casillas to make an excellent save with his leg to push the ball wide.

Madrid also needed defender Dani Carvajal to stop Neymar's close-range effort in the 28th after Messi slipped him an incisive throughball.

But just when Barcelona was playing its best, Marcelo made an incursion down the left side and sent in a low cross that Gerard Pique stopped with his arm as he fell.

Ronaldo stepped up to take the resulting penalty and fired it into the corner to end goalkeeper Claudio Bravo's league record of not conceding a goal at eight games and 35 minutes.

Madrid went ahead when Barcelona conceded a corner following Javier Mascherano's poor pass, giving Pepe a chance to thump in Toni Kroos' corner after he shed his marker.

Barcelona tried to fight back, and Mathieu forced Casillas to make a diving parry of his long strike in the 56th.

But a madcap series of errors by Barcelona let Madrid put the result beyond doubt.

Ivan Rakitic, in his first action since replacing Xavi, flubbed his corner kick and Iniesta and Mascherano stared at one another while Fransico "Isco" Alarcon won the clearance near midfield. Rodriguez ended up with the ball and set up Benzema to finally slot it home off the post.

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