BARCELONA -- Real Madrid put in an impressive performance against Barcelona in a gripping Clasico that ended 0-0 at Camp Nou, the first time this fixture ended goalless since 2002.
Zinedine Zidane's team dominated the first half, creating a number of chances. Gerard Pique cleared Casemiro's header off the line, while Madrid could have been awarded two penalties in two minutes when Raphael Varane appeared to be fouled by Clement Lenglet before his shirt was pulled by Ivan Rakitic at a corner.
In the second half, Gareth Bale went close to scoring twice, shooting into the side netting after a great play by Federico Valverde and having a goal ruled out when Ferland Mendy was judged narrowly offside.
None of the prematch concerns about security, protests and possible disruption affected what was an entertaining game and an assured Real Madrid performance. The visitors were convincing with and without the ball.
In possession they controlled the game for long periods in midfield and created numerous chances, even if many of them were not clear-cut. When out of possession, the team worked hard and their press effectively prevented Barca from playing with their usual fluency.
Real Madrid now haven't won in seven Clasicos, equalling their longest-ever winless run in this fixture from 2011-12. They really needed to score during the dominant 25-minute period they enjoyed in the first half at Camp Nou. They didn't, and ultimately lived to regret it, having to settle for a point.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Zinedine Zidane had two big calls to make going into this game, in midfield and attack. The coach left Luka Modric on the bench, picking Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Valverde and Isco as his midfield four, and he chose Bale to partner with Karim Benzema ahead of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.
Both calls were proved right. The midfield was the base for Real Madrid's first-half dominance, while Bale was more consistently industrious without the ball than he has been for some time.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
DF Dani Carvajal, 7 -- Carvajal is ever-reliable but remains the one Real Madrid player who hasn't quite reached his level in recent weeks, particularly in attack.
DF Sergio Ramos, 8 -- The captain is now the player who has featured in more Clasicos (43) than anyone else in history. Cleared Lionel Messi's shot off the line in the first half.
DF Raphael Varane, 7 -- Could and should have made decisive contributions in attack when fouled by Lenglet and Rakitic inside the box.
DF Ferland Mendy, 8 -- Back from suspension, replacing Nacho, and did well in his most high-profile Real Madrid game so far. Marcelo wasn't missed, and that says a lot.
MF Casemiro, 8 -- It's trite to talk about his importance to this Real Madrid team, but it cannot be overstated. Barcelona missed Sergio Busquets, while Casemiro fulfilled his midfield duties to perfection with and without the ball.
MF Toni Kroos, 8 -- Was key early on to Real Madrid getting control of the game. He's been back to his very best this season and tonight was the latest example.
MF Federico Valverde, 8 -- His status has risen so much that starting the biggest game of the season ahead of Modric is no longer a surprise. He was involved at both ends, twice going close to scoring, while also creating a great chance for Bale.
MF Isco, 7 -- Important in Real Madrid's dominance. His renaissance the past few weeks has been remarkable. Tired as the game went on.
FW Gareth Bale, 7 -- Worked hard in defense, often tracking Antoine Griezmann, and was more involved than usual. Had the ball in the net, a goal that was ruled out for a marginal offside. Played on with an ankle injury late on.
FW Karim Benzema, 7 -- Went into this game as La Liga's joint-top goalscorer alongside Messi and couldn't add to his nine goals in 32 Clasicos.
FW Rodrygo, N/R -- Came on for Isco with 10 minutes to go.
MF Luka Modric, N/R -- Fresh legs replacing the tireless Valverde.