warning: over 100 photos (and a lot of middle fingers lol)
(source) Barcelona took a giant step towards winning the Primera Division title after crushing arch rivals and nearest challengers Real Madrid in stunning fashion at the Bernabeu.
Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi both netted braces while Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique were also on the scoresheet as Pep Guardiola's treble-chasers inflicted a first league defeat on in-form Madrid since beating the reigning champions at the Nou Camp in December.
Madrid had picked up 52 points from a possible 54 since that match, but their hopes of a third successive title now look sunk after they fell seven points adrift of Barca with only four games remaining.
Barca, who also hold the better head-to-head record against their rivals, can now clinch the title next weekend if they beat Villarreal and Madrid lose to Valencia.
In last season's corresponding fixture Barca had a night to forget, starting with the chastening experience of giving hosts Madrid a guard of honour and applauding them onto the pitch for having just won the league, and ending with a 4-1 hammering.
It was a completely different story tonight, though they needed to bounce back from an early deficit as Madrid went ahead inside 14 minutes through Gonzalo Higuain.
Sergio Ramos sent over a cross from the right and Higuain rose unmarked to head home his 19th league goal of the season to send the Bernabeu wild.
Barca need not have worried though as within six minutes of that goal they had turned the game on its head with strikes from Henry and Puyol.
The lively Henry drew Barca level in the 18th minute when Ramos failed to cut out Lionel Messi's through-ball and the Frenchman coolly rolled his shot past Iker Casillas.
Henry was also involved in the goal that put Barca ahead soon after, winning a free-kick to the left of the area that Xavi curled into the area where the unmarked Puyol headed home inside the near post.
It was a two-minute spell which could have helped decide the title, as after that turnaround Barca went into overdrive.
The visitors rode their luck briefly when goalkeeper Victor Valdes did well to deny Arjen Robben, but otherwise it was home custodian Casillas who was under the cosh.
He produced three superb saves to deny Lionel Messi (twice) and Samuel Eto'o in the space of six minutes as Barca repeatedly swept through the home defence.
Casillas could do nothing to prevent Messi putting Barca 3-1 up in the 35th minute though after Madrid committed defensive suicide.
Lassana Diarra was caught in possession by Xavi deep inside Madrid territory, and with the home side's backline nowhere in the vicinity, Messi had all the time in the world to collect the ball, stroll into the area and slide a low shot past Casillas.
That was a bitter blow for Madrid after seemingly weathering the worst of the Barca storm, but it was no more than Guardiola's side deserved.
Barca continued to look the more likely to get another goal as well, with Dani Alves testing Casillas with a long-range free-kick just before the break before Iniesta went close at the start of the second half.
It was actually Madrid who would find the breakthrough though thanks to Ramos.
Iniesta was adjudged to have fouled Robben just outside the box, and from the resulting kick Ramos headed home Robben's cross at the far post to give Madrid a much-needed boost.
That euphoria was to last all of a minute before Henry restored Barca's two-goal advantage.
Xavi picked out the Frenchman's run in behind Ramos and Henry reached the ball before the outreaching Casillas. Madrid fans could only watch in horror as the Barca striker's shot slowly rolled into the net.
That knocked the stuffing out of Madrid, and they were left facing total humiliation after Messi made it 5-2 in the 75th minute, the Argentinian magician picking up a pass from Xavi before beating Casillas at his near post.
The nightmare had not finished there for Madrid though, and Pique wrapped up the scoring eight minutes from time with what was Barca's 100th league goal of the season.
Barca can now look forward to their midweek Champions League semi-final trip to Chelsea confident that they virtually have the Primera Division title wrapped up.
17' Henry » 20' Puyol » 35' Messi
58' Henry » 74' Messi » 83' Piqué
- Full match highlights.
- End of the match celebrating.
- In Barcelona at the airport.
Pep: "I'm very happy. This is one of the happiest days of my life. To come here and play as good a game as we did is not easy. I’m thrilled to know that we have made so many people happy tonight. I am immensely happy."
"At the Bernabéu, the only thing you can do is be brave. I am delighted that they were brave. After going 1-0 down, we took the ball and created chances. We had the opportunity to take a massive step forward, but it is never easy to win here. But as we have done all season, we stayed faithful to our idea of going out to win games. I admire my players for their bravery, for their tension and for their concentration."
"[Madrid] never let their heads drop, to score the fourth goal so quickly … I have to congratulate Madrid. Here we have taken a massive step towards becoming champions, but it is only the grandeur of a team like Real Madrid that has prevented us from being champions much earlier … the chance to end the season well is not far away now. We can't settle for this, because we are so close now."
"They [Madrid] have many virtues. They are a team that can kill you off if you attack them. They can destroy you if you attack and lose the ball. We spoke before the game about being careful going forward. That's the way Madrid play; they hit you when you make mistakes. I can't deny that I'm delighted that our way of playing football worked at this ground."
"The little idea of putting Messi at centre forward and moving Eto'o out to the right. We'd watched the first game we played and noticed that players like Lass and Gago followed Xavi a lot, and I wanted Messi to make the most of this by playing in the middle. And if that dragged the centre backs out of their area, then Henry and Eto'o had to take advantage. They are the players that make everything work. They make it all so much easier. Players like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta give you a good idea of what you can do."
Piqué: "It is not a mathematical win, but we are certainly on the right track. Now we just have to enjoy the moment."
"Today's result was historic, like the 0-5 in 1974. Barça fans will always remember it."
"My goal was the result of a forty metre move, and I managed to score. It was a very important moment for me, I felt an adrenaline buzz."
"We'll go to Chelsea looking for the win like we did today. It's the only way we know."
Puyol: "I think it went very well for us. We did start out losing, but we never got nervous."
"It is a very good result against our main opponent. It hasn’t won us the League, but it was an important step forward. I am sure the Madrid players will be affected by a result like this."
"The goal I scored came from a move we practiced with Tito Vilanova just before we came on, and only Xavi, Piqué and me knew about it."
"We deserved a game like that because the team has been playing so well this season."
"There was loads of euphoria and celebrations in the dressing room, but we are well aware that we still have some important games ahead of us."
Alves: "With this team we can play against whoever you want, because we always provide a response."
"We have a highly optimistic coach and he told us that whatever we did, we had to keep our order. The team knew where to be in the middle of the field, and in the end we thrashed Madrid."
"We know that mathematically we have to keep working and get some more points before we win the league. That’s our objective."
"After the result last year, we had a thorn in our sides"
Henry: "We wanted to win here, and we won with our heads. We wanted to win after what happened here last year, it was a difficult time for Barça fans, we wanted to do something big, and we did it."
"There are four games left and we have a seven point lead. We still have a fight."
"Against Chelsea we'll have to play another incredible game."
"We are a team that always fights. After we went 1-0 down, we didn’t know how things would end. So we had to fight, and away from home too."
"You always have to make the most of a game here. There are four games and twelve points left. And we also have to go to London."
"I have played for Barça for two years and wearing this shirt is sensational. Winning against Madrid, too."
Messi: "We produced the kind of football Barça have been playing all season. Good football and lots of goals."
"We knew that if we won we’d practically be champions."
"Last year it was us who suffered and this season it is us who are enjoying ourselves. It’s been amazing."
Iniesta: "We came to the Bernabéu, we played good football, 2-6... you can’t ask for more."
"I'm thrilled that Canaletes is almost full, because the people suffer and miss their supper when the team loses. I am happy things went well and we have made them happy."
In no particular order...at all.
Titi got another tattoo?
Next Game: vs Chelsea in Stamford Bridge Wednesday, May 6th @ 20:45 (2:45PM EST)