Real Madrid - Barça: Big point at the Bernabéu (1-1)
FC Barcelona have taken a point from their trip to the Santiago Bernabéu and maintain their eight-point lead on Real Madrid with just 18 left to play for. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo scored the goals, both from the penalty spot.
Barcelona (FCB).- The first clásico of the series of four has ended in a draw, which included two penalties, one red card and plenty of tension in game that leaves FC Barcelona in a wonderful position in the league table. It was an intense game from the kick off, with the two teams employing very different game plans: while Guardiola sent out his strongest attacking formation with Puyol back in the side but unable to complete the 90 minutes through injury, Mourinho\u2019s plan was more about breaking down the Barça machine, with Özil on the bench and Pepe running the midfield.
And so Barça dominated the possession, while Madrid based their game on counter attacks, and that led to chances for both sides. Barça went ahead with a penalty converted by Leo Messi but Cristiano Ronaldo replied in similar fashion shortly before the final whistle. Ultimately, Barça have kept their eight-point lead intact, and the players celebrated a result that serves their cause very well indeed.
One way traffic
The game started just as it suited Barça best, with the Catalans able to pass the ball around and dictate the pace of the action. Madrid took a more passive role, and waited at the back rather than apply any major pressure in midfield. The home side\u2019s idea was to neutralise the Barça attack, and incredibly, after the first half hour, Madrid had only had 19% of the possession. With the bone dry grass not helping matters, it was a slow and often dull start to the game.
Barça finally started turning their possession into chances, and from then on the game grew more and more interesting. Messi almost put his side ahead with a chip that Casillas deftly collected in the air. Moments later there were claims for a penalty on Villa, but the referee didn\u2019t want to know. Madrid also started playing more ambitious football, with most of their danger coming from dead ball situations, and Adriano was called upon to head a Cristiano Ronaldo effort off the line. The first half ended scoreless.
Ronaldo threats but Messi scores
The second half was much faster and produced plenty to talk about. Cristiano Ronaldo powered the ball onto the woodwork, and Barça responded with a long ball to Villa, who was brought down in the area by Albiol. This time the referee did point at the spot and also sent the centre back off, meaning he will miss the cup final. Messi made no mistake with the penalty, and Barça were one-up.
Oddly, it was after going a goal and a man down that Madrid started producing their best football. With Puyol withdrawn with a groin injury, Busquets moved back into defence, and FC Barcelona handed much of the control of the game to their rivals. The last quarter of an hour saw the kind of end-to-end football that the all-whites enjoy so much, and in one of their attacks, the referee deemed an Alves tackle on Marcelo worthy of a penalty. Ronaldo stepped up, and equalised the game, but the 1-1 result still leaves Barça in a fantastic position as far as their title hopes are concerned.
0-1, Messi (pen, min 52)
1-1, Ronaldo (pen, min 83)