La Liga wrap: Barça and Madrid take deserved point from El Clásico
Barcelona and Real Madrid both earned a deserved point from a pulsating El Clásico on Sunday night, writes Tom Wellman
Draw a fair result in pulsating El Clásico
Very rarely does a big fixture live up to expectation but the third El Clásico of the season treated viewers to an exciting encounter. Both sides controlled the game for periods and either team could have walked away with three points but in the end 2-2 proved to be a fair result. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both netted twice to add to their tallies for the season and ensured that neither was upstaged. Barça’s 100 per cent record may now be over but they have an impressive lead over Madrid, who climbed to fifth after the result. Had Madrid lost then they would have equalled as many defeats as they suffered throughout the entirety of last season.
Messi 2 Ronaldo 2
Jose Mourinho quipped after the match that Messi and Ronaldo were from different planets, though it does not take ‘the Special One’ to tell us that. Last season, these two goal machines blew the division apart and the pair have continued in similar vein this year too. Ronaldo was first to set the stage alight with a neat finish, though Victor Valdes will feel that he could have done better to prevent the Portuguese winger’s near post finish. Messi replied soon after as Pepe mucked up an attempted clearance. In the second half, Messi, who had scored a quality free-kick against Madrid in the Super Copa earlier in the season, scored a carbon copy of the sensational strike to turn the game around. Ronaldo was to have the final word however as his cool finish beat Valdes from a lovely through ball. Barça and Real could not be separated on the night and neither could Messi or Ronaldo.
Alves’ future at Barça seems uncertain
Replaced soon after Real Madrid took the lead, Dani Alves’ career with Barcelona appears to be dwindling. Prior to the match, rumours were circulating about his future and relationship with the squad and now those whispers have multiplied. Marvin Montoya came on for Alves and almost won the game with a sensational shot which hit the crossbar in the dying moments and could be the long-term replacement for the Brazilian. His defending has been questionable for some time now thanks to his eagerness to get forwards and perhaps Tito Vilanova has no place for this in his team. Nevertheless, Alves remains an important player for Barça in light of their defensive crisis.
For once, ill discipline doesn’t spoil El Clásico
Vilanova refused to criticise the referee on Sunday night, and for the neutrals, his performance was exemplary. Two arguable penalty calls were fired at him in quick succession but he backed away from them and refused to be drawn to the theatrics of a number of players. Usually in this fixture a red card, deserved or not, ruins the match and gives the advantage to one team. Not on Sunday though as the man in black- an odd choice of colour considering Barça’s dark kit – refrained from revealing his red card. Xabi Alonso came close on a number of occasions but, taking into account his earlier booking was perhaps harsh, the referee allowed him to continue playing. It made a nice change for the game to be dominated by Messi and Ronaldo instead of controversy from the officials.