Staff and wire reports

BARCELONA, Spain — Sweden international Zlatan Ibrahimovic has always said he believes he was ready for greatness. He took a huge step toward that goal when he scored the only goal in the ‘clasico match Nov. 29 between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The 28-year-old Barcelona striker played in his first match in three weeks due to a hamstring injury. He entered the game as a substitute and quickly made his presence felt.
Daniel Alves found Ibrahimovic at the far post with a lofted cross in the 56th minute and the Sweden striker never broke stride as he volleyed past Iker Casillas with his left foot in the high-profile game between Spain’s arch rivals.
“It’s a very happy moment because it was my first ‘clasico’,” Ibrahimovic said. “It was a fantastic atmosphere, I’m really happy.”
Ibrahimovic beat Casillas at the near post only four minutes after coming for Thierry Henry, sending the 100,000 fans at the Camp Nou stadium into delirium.
“When you come into a game from the bench it’s not easy because the first sprint that you do, you are very tired because your pulse is like 200,” the 28-year-old Swede said. “But Dani gave me a good cross, I just tried to hit the ball and it went in.”
The goal was Ibrahimovic’s eighth of the season. He trails only Valencia striker David Villa for the league lead. The victory allowed Barcelona to overtake Madrid and move two points clear at the top of the standings.
“It was very important because we played at home and now we are first in the competition and we should bring this to the next game,” the former Malmo player said. “I’m very happy that I came in because I had an injury for 10-15 days and had a hamstring (problem). But it went well.”
Although the victory guarantees nothing for the defending champion’s chase for another league title, Ibrahimovic’s strike secured a valuable win against the new-look Madrid—which featured world all-stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema.
“I think Madrid also came here to win, (while) some come to defend,” said Ibrahimovic, Barcelona’s record signing after arriving from Inter Milan in a swap for Samuel Eto’o that also included $66 million (?45 million) going to the Italians.
In terms of classic derby matches, Ibrahimovic said this one was tops.
“Inter-(AC) Milan is also a big derby with a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions. (But) I think this one is more international, bigger than Inter-Milan, with more people watching the game,” Ibrahimovic said.