Nacho was delighted to pick up three pivotal points in the LaLiga title race as Real Madrid demonstrated their strength in depth with a 2-1 triumph over rivals Barcelona on Saturday.
Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid moved to the top of the table in Spain – albeit potentially for only 24 hours with Atletico Madrid playing on Sunday – by completing the league double over their Clasico rivals Barca for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Reigning LaLiga champions Madrid scored both of their goals in the first half, Karim Benzema getting the first with an audacious back-heeled finish before Toni Kroos doubled the lead, albeit his free-kick took a deflection to beat goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
While Oscar Mingueza halved the deficit on the hour mark, Madrid’s centre-back pairing of Nacho and Eder Militao helped make sure Madrid retained their advantage through to the final whistle.
“They’re three very important points in terms of the title race,” Nacho said. “We now have to push on because there’s still a long way to go.
“Winning a Clasico is always special and a nice thing, especially with the way the league table is so tight, with everyone fighting to win the league, it’s a very important win.”
Madrid finished the contest, which saw the second half played out amid heavy downpours, with 10 men – midfielder Casemiro dismissed in the 90th minute.
On the game itself, Nacho said: “We were very comfortable on the counter-attack. Barcelona like to have a lot of the ball, they can hurt you and you have to defend well and we had to dig in, but we got a two-goal lead which helped us to grow in to it.
“We had to work hard, but we got the win, which is the most important thing.”
The home team were once again without captain Sergio Ramos – who missed his first LaLiga Clasico game having appeared in 31 consecutive showdowns – due to injury, while fellow centre-back Raphael Varane is still isolating after a positive COVID-19 test result.
However, having performed admirably in the 3-1 Champions League win over Liverpool in midweek, the combination of Nacho and Militao again impressed at the heart of the Madrid defence.
Lionel Messi could not help Barcelona rescue a point in an eventful finish; he has now failed to score in seven successive games against Madrid in all competitions for the first time in his career.
“We have a very strong squad, we’re all contributing in big games like today and the other day against Liverpool,” Nacho said.
“The coach believes in all of us and we’re at 100 per cent. We still have a lot of really big things left to keep fighting for.”
Barca felt aggrieved they were not awarded a penalty after substitute Martin Braithwaite tangled with Madrid full-back Ferland Mendy.
“I was just the wrong side of Mendy and I don’t know what to tell you know. When I’ve seen it, I’ll be able to have an opinion on it,” Nacho said of the incident.