Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 2: Lessons as Messi & Ronaldo star in El Clásico
Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 2: What did we learn as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both score twice in El Clásico?
Ronaldo continues El Clásico run
Cristiano Ronaldo endured a muted start to the La Liga campaign by the Real Madrid forward’s high standards with just one goal in his opening three fixtures. But the 27-year-old is hitting top form with his ninth goal in five matches following successive hat-tricks against Ajax and Deportivo de La Coruña. The move started on the right wing, with Marcelo and Mesut Özil combining before the ball was worked across to Karim Benzema, who fed a superb pass to Ronaldo. The Portugal captain calmly slotted a left-footed drive past Victor Valdes – the strike continued his prolific El Clásico run, with the former Manchester United star netting in six consecutive matches against Barça. However, as is the reoccurring sub-plot between these two clubs, Lionel Messi produced two moments of brilliance to usurp his adversary and appear to steer Barcelona towards an insurmountable 11-point lead at the top of La Liga. But Ronaldo responded. In the 65th minute, he tried an overly ambitious bicycle kick from a Madrid corner – perhaps inspired by Benzema’s exploits in midweek – but missed the ball and landed awkwardly. He was clearly in pain but struggled through and moments later netted the leveller. Adriano, playing in an unfamiliar centre-half role, lost track of the forward, who raced onto Özil’s through-ball and produced a composed finish to ensure Madrid’s hopes of defending their league crown were kept alive – albeit on life support.
Messi capitalises on defensive errors
Jose Mourinho’s men were in control for the opening 31 minutes as Barcelona struggled to strike up their trademark passing rhythm. The Catalan side had failed to muster a single effort on Iker Casillas’ goal, with Madrid’s attackers threatening to stretch their lead. But Barça were not flustered and remained patient, with their reward coming just past the half hour mark when Messi levelled for the Copa Del Rey holders. Xavi worked the ball out to Pedro, whose low cross struck Xabi Alonso and ballooned into the air – Pepe attempted to clear but mistimed his header and Messi was on hand to prod a finish past Casillas and level the score. The Argentina international was more of a threat in the second half as his direct runs forced Madrid’s rearguard to resort to underhand tactics to halt Barça’s talisman. It was one such tackle by Alonso – already on a booking – which led to Messi’s second of the night. Standing centrally, 25 yards from Casillas’ goal, Messi struck a sublime right-footed effort which curled away from the Spain captain and nestled into the corner. It took his tally to 17 goals in El Clásicos, just one behind Madrid great Alfredo di Stefano.
Benzema fluffs Madrid’s best chances
Aside from Ronaldo’s heroics, Madrid’s other openings fell to their enigmatic France international Benzema. The 24-year-old scored a speculative overhead kick in a 4-1 victory at Ajax in the Champions League midweek but he was in a noticeably less clinical mood at Camp Nou. In the 13th minute, with the El Clásico goalless, Ronaldo sent a perfectly weighted cross to the far post where Benzema had coasted into the Barça area unmarked – the former Lyon man miscued a first-time volley which headed straight for the corner flag. His embarrassment was spared by Ronaldo’s opener before an even better chance befell the Madrid number nine. Another attack from the visitors saw them slice through Barça’s makeshift defence, with Ángel Di María dodging past a number of challenges before slotting the ball through to Benzema – the Frenchman slipped as his effort hit the right post with Sami Khedira’s follow-up flashing narrowly wide. With chances at the Camp Nou at a premium and Madrid eight points behind their bitter rivals, Benzema’s wayward finishing will have irked Mourinho, who replaced his erratic striker with Gonzalo Higuain in the 62nd minute.