Messi The Master As Barcelona Win Clasico Against Real Madrid To Keep La Liga Title Hopes Alive
The result leaves Barca level on points with Real Madrid at the top of the table, although Madrid have played a game less.
A win for the home side would have virtually assured them the league title with five matches left to play, and as early as the first minute there was controversy as Cristiano Ronaldo went down after a challenge from Samuel Umtiti in the Barcelona penalty area, although replays showed the Madrid striker greatly exaggerating the contact.
There was a great atmosphere in the Bernabeu as Madrid looked to dominate Barca, and their pressure was rewarded in the 28th minute when Casemiro put them ahead bundling the ball over the line following a corner.
The lead lasted just five minutes before Messi leveled the score. The Argentine, who moments earlier had needed treatment after being elbowed in the mouth by Marcelo, didn’t let that affect his balance as he swerved past Carvajal and fired past Keylor Navas from close to the penalty spot.
Here’s how the team celebrated #ElClasico on the field!
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 23, 2017
The pace didn’t drop off, and Luka Modric forced a fine save from Ter Stegen moments before Bale was forced off with a muscle injury to be replaced by Marco Asensio.
Casemiro was lucky to remain on the pitch after being booked and in light of how the referee turned a blind eye to two poor challenges before the break.
Both keepers had to be at their best at the start of the second half with Ter Stegen saving from Kroos and Navas denying Paco Alcacer, before Ronaldo missed a golden chance to score following a swift Madrid break.
Barca took the lead through Ivan Rakitic who scored a wonderful left foot shot from 20 yards out which left Navas helpless with just 17 minutes left on the clock.
Madrid were then reduced to 10 men when Sergio Ramos was sent off for a horrendous challenge on Messi, although his reaction as he left the field implied that he disagreed with the decision.
Madrid refused to surrender, and Messi nearly made it 3-1 with a powerful shot which Navas saved brilliantly. It looked as if the game was Barca’s, but James Rodriguez, who had replaced Karim Benzema a few minutes previously, equalized with a left foot shot following a Marcelo cross.
It looked as if the game would end in a 2-2 draw which would have maintained Madrid’s lead, but Messi got on the end of a surging counterattack to sweep the ball home and to throw the title race wide open once again.