Despite dominating the game, the Catalans went down after Cristiano Ronaldo headed in a powerful shot. Just 30 seconds later, Barca attacker Pedro Rodriguez equalised with a stunning finish past Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Lionel Messi scored a wonderful penalty while Xavi Hernandez sealed the match in Barca's favour. But in the 85th minute, Angel di Maria got one back for Real after Victor Valdes was caught lagging at goal.
The first half was dominated by Tito Vilanova's men as Barca managed 74 per cent possession but hardly created any clear-cut chances in front of goal. Both teams began to play their natural game in the second period. Unlike their usual games were the referee flashes numerous red cards, none were sent off on Thursday night's El Clasico.
Ronaldo, who hardly got a touch of the ball in the first 45, scored a stunning header in the 55th minute. But Pedro got the Catalans back with a quick break on the right wing. Javier Mascherano's inch perfect pass met Pedro who slotted home hardly 30 seconds after Ronaldo opened the scoring.
Puppet master's Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta pulled the strings in the middle as Barcelona pushed forward with more intent. Iniesta played a key role wriggling through defenders on the left wing while star Lionel Messi was more quiet on the big night.
Iniesta found space inside the area but was brought down by defender Sergio Ramos. Messi sent Casillas the wrong way to give Barca a deserving lead in the 70th minute.
The player of the tournament in Euro 2012, Iniesta, was the creator again. 12 minutes from time Xavi was sent through by his midfield partner to seal victory for the Catalans.
Vilanova's men were heading towards the second-leg with a two-goal advantage but goalkeeper Valdes gifted a needless goal in the 85th minute. The Spain No. 2 took an extra touch instead of clearing as Di Maria grabbed the opportunity to narrow Barca's lead.
However, of the two teams, Barcelona looked more threatening with large amounts of possession and quick passing. Madrid were held back to soak up pressure and counter attack on the break. But for once it was not all about Messi and Ronaldo.