Sunday’s El Clasico ended into a Barcelona’s thrilling 4-3 win over Real Madrid, and had a whole bunch of everything including a hat trick, three penalties, a red card and some spectacular goals.
The opening 45 minutes ended 2-2 and contained some of the finest football of the season in open play. The visiting Barcelona scored first already in the seventh minute, when Messi found Andrés Iniesta on the left side of the box and the Spaniard did not waste his chance.
The Spain star took one touch to get the ball out of his feet before smashing a shot beyond Lopéz’s shoulder, and into the top right corner of the goal, giving Barcelona an early 1-0 lead.
Karim Benzema should have quickly leveled but his effort sailed over the bar and four-time world player of the year Messi was guilty of a rare bad miss himself, scuffing his shot when in alone.
Angel di Maria outshone his fellow winger Gareth Bale, his first-half display scintillating. Messi’s fellow Argentine set up Benzema’s header in the 20th minute for 1-1 – although keeper Victor Valdes’ reaction suggested he knew he made a mistake.
Three minute later, Benzema doubled his fun and gives Real Madrid a lead. Once again, di Maria provided the assist, as ran onto Marcelo’s through-ball and crossed into the area. Mascherano then tried to intercept it but missed it all together, and Benzema deftly controlled it with his thigh and volleyed it past Valdes from close range.
Barca weathered the storm and their talisman, Messi, drew them level shortly before half-time. He bounced off a couple of challenges and exchanged passes with Neymar before firing beyond Lopez. It really was breathless stuff, which thrilled those within the Bernabeu and the many millions watching on television.
The goal pulled Messi even with Hugo Sanchez on the La Liga all-time scoring list (234) and moved him ahead of Alfredo Di Stéfano for the all-time goal-scoring lead in Clásicos (19).
“(Messi has) put in many performances like the one he put in today, but the impact is greater in a Clasico,” Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino was quoted as saying on Barcelona’s website. “I really have run out of words for him.”
Cristiano Ronaldo finally got the penalty he’s been shouting about since the first Clásico of the season in the 55th minute when he tripped over Dani Alves’ foot on the edge of the box. The referee wasted no time pointing to the spot and the Portuguese striker finished things off himself, beating Valdés low and to the left to make it 3-2.
The game continued to ebb and flow but it was Barca who came closest to netting a seventh goal of the game, with Dani Alves thumping a low 18-yard strike against the upright when Lopez was beaten on 74 minutes. Barca did make it 4-3 with five minutes remaining when Messi completed his hat-trick from the spot after Xabi Alonso clumsily brought down Iniesta.
Since 2009-10, El Clásico has been much more entertaining as the two best players in the world face off. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have elevated El Clásico from the best game in the world to the best game, best storylines, choose-your-side game and rivalry in sports today, says BarcaBlaugranes