Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo: a class apart in el Clasico

Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 2: The superstars of the Spanish game live up to their billing, scoring two goals each as Barcelona are held by Madrid at the Nou Camp

The Nou Camp

Let's face it, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been in a state of independence for a long time now: independent from their peers; existing outside the laws of football and occasionally of physics too.

The Clasico build-up had been driven by the political distance between Catalonia and Spain. Then the Argentine and the Portuguese took over and everyone went back to wondering if any sort of distance can really be put between them.

Ronaldo scored with his first shot. He added a second in the half second to equalize for Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho was asked after the game if he felt his performance had been enough to earn him the Balon D'Or at the end of the year.

"I don't know if he's done enough," he said exasperated. "All I know is that saying who is the best in the world at the moment should be banned, because these two are just so good. They are both from a different planet."

Messi also scored with his first shot and then beat Iker Casillas with a free-kick in the second half to move to within just one goal of Alfredo Di Stefano's record 18 goals scored in this fixture.

Di Stefano was 35 when he stopped playing – who knows how far ahead of him Messi will be if we are graced with his presence for another 10 years.

Such was the emotional outpouring when his set-piece put Barcelona ahead the home supporters almost forget their second half protest for independence. It came, finally, at a little later than the 17 minutes 14 seconds that mark the last time they had law-making autonomy free from Spain. When it arrived it was louder but that had far more to do with the boy from Rosario than an increase in political fervor.

The lines across the football landscape are being redrawn by two men who seem to known no frontiers. You might prefer the bravado of Ronaldo; you might prefer the unassuming Messi, but football wins every time either man takes to the pitch.

Messi has now scored 154 goals at the Nou Camp in 164 games; Ronaldo has needed just 16 games to score 10 goals against Barcelona. Ronaldo has 14 goals this season and Messi 12. The record books stay open because they are being rewritten every week.

Ronaldo's first goal came not from a smash and grab made in Madrid but at the end of a finely worked move more befitting Barcelona's style. Karim Benzema played the pass to Ronaldo after Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil, Marcelo and Sami Khedira had all exchanged passes. Ronaldo was allowed too much space by Alves and he beat Victor Valdes at his near post with a drilled low finish.

He had become the first player ever to score in six consecutive Clasicos. He had also become only the second player to score away from home in a Clasico in five straight away matches, but the only other player to have achieved that feat soon made it 1-1.

Messi lurked on the edge of the six yard box and when Iniesta played the ball out to Pedro and his cross cannoned off Alonso it was not cleared by Pepe and the Argentine pounced.

Alves had been found wanting for Ronaldo's goal and he was replaced by Montoya midway through the first half. Alves has since been ruled out for three weeks with a thigh injury.

Pedro was late on Sergio Ramos and despite protests was cautioned. Alonso joined him in the book for a foul on Xavi and Ozil then clattered into Messi but familiarity between these too has bred grudging respect as witnessed by the embraces in the tunnel before the game and the poison of some of last year's pitch battles never looked like returning although Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova said after the game that a "video should be made of Pepe's tackles".

Barcelona started the stronger in the second half with Pepe poking the ball away from Andres Iniesta. The midfielder tumbled over inside the area but the appeals for a penalty were correctly waved away by the referee.

The outstanding Sergio Busquets was shown a yellow card for clipping the heels of Ronaldo and the Portuguese hit his free-kick into the wall. On 15 minutes of the second period Messi went one better from a similar distance and Barcelona were 2-1 up.

Such was the commotion from the second goal that the supporters almost forget their second-half protest. Arriving slightly later than the 17th minute of the second half the chant of "independencia" was heard once more.

Ronaldo tried and failed with a bicycle kick at the other end as Real Madrid pushed for the equaliser. It looked as if the only man capable of outdoing him was going to do just that, but running on to an Ozil pass he drew Valdes and slotted in the visitors' second.

There was now panic at the back for Barcelona with Ronaldo looking for his hat-trick. But with Messi needing just one for his treble – a goal that would draw him level with Di Stefano's record haul of 18 in this fixture – the danger came at both ends.

Gonzalo Higuain, who had replaced Benzema, had a shot saved by Valdes at the keeper's near post and as quickly as Barcelona raced away Real Madrid came right back at them. It was too much for the referee who turned too quickly in the centre circle at one point and went to ground.

Montoya hit the bar and Pedro's shot cannoned off Alexis as Barcelona pushed harder at the death but the game's fifth goal never came. Mourinho kept up an incredible record of not having lost in October in eight years. What he really needed though was a win and the gap at the top remains eight points.

The gap between the best two players in the world remains negligible. "They are both incredible," said Vilanova. "Perhaps Ronaldo would have received slightly more recognition if he were not playing at the same time as Messi."

Match facts

Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Adriano, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Fabregas

Real Madrid: Cassilas, Marcelo, Ramos, Pepe, Arbeloa, C Ronaldo, Alonso, Khedira, Di Maria, Ozil, Benzema

Scorers. Barcelona: Messi 31, 61. Real Madrid: Ronaldo 23, 66

Subs: Barcelona Montoya (Alves, 28), Sanchez (Fabregas, 64). Real Madrid Higuain (Benzema, 62), Kaka (Ozil, 80), Essien (di Maria, 88). Booked: Barca Pedro, Busquets. Real Alonso, Ozil, Pepe, Arbeloa. Possession: Barca 69%. Real 31%. Attempts on target: Barca 3. Real 4. Referee Carlos Delgado Ferreiro. Attendance 95,000.

Get Adobe Flash player
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
A referee issues a red card
football
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'