Stars shine in highly charged Clasico
BARCELONA - Agence France-Presse
Barcelona star Lionel Messi (L) and Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo both scored two goals as ‘El Clasico’ staged a duel between the two best players in the world. REUTERS photoLionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both scored twice as Barcelona and Real Madrid drew 2-2 in a politically-charged Clasico on Oct. 7 which kept the Catalan giants eight points ahead of their bitter rivals. Ronaldo put Madrid ahead after 23 minutes but Messi responded just after the half hour mark with Barca having shown little going forward.
The 98,000 capacity crowd of vociferous Catalans glimpsed the possibility of going 11 points clear after Messi struck a free-kick to put them ahead after the break but Ronaldo responded five minutes later.
In the dying stages, Barca had the chance to win it with Martin Montoya hitting the woodwork.
On a tense night at Camp Nou, fans created a mosaic of the Catalan flag, “The Senyera”, in a clear demonstration of the nationalist fervor in the region where many want independence from Spain.
The air of nationalism was again demonstrated after 17 minutes and 14 seconds when fans raised their Senyera flags and chanted for freedom for Catalonia. The moment was chosen as a reference to the fall of Barcelona in 1714 during the War of Spanish Succession when Catalonia came under centralized rule from Madrid.
Real looked more incisive going forward and it got its reward when Ronaldo beat keeper Victor Valdes at his near post with a low drive after being played in by Benzema.
The Frenchman then failed to double the advantage, leaning back with his shot from 12 yards, and the ball came back off the post while Di Maria hit the follow-up wide.
But forced out of its shell, the game opened up and Barça equalized with their first opening.
Pepe jumped and failed to connect with the ball which dropped at the feet of Messi in front of goal and he slotted home.
The match lost its cageyness, but after the break neither side was able to take control with imprecise passing and niggly fouls creating few clear cut chances.
It was at this moment that Barcelona received a moment of inspiration from Messi with a 25-yard free-kick into the top corner after he himself had been fouled.
Ronaldo though was not to be outdone and, latching onto an Özil pass in the area he finished clinically.