El Clasico; After Real Madrid twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Barcelona on Sunday, we pick out five talking points from the game, featuring Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca’s unbeaten run…
How much did the referee get right?
Tempers flared towards the end of the first half as Jordi Alba got away with putting his hand around Luka Modric’s neck, before Luis Suarez and Sergio Ramos squared up after Suarez appeared to accuse the defender of catching him with an elbow.
Messi earned himself a booking when he went in late on Ramos shortly afterwards and Sergi Roberto was sent off in injury time for hitting Marcelo with an arm to the face.
That looked like a debatable decision, as did Bale escaping without any punishment for putting his studs into the back of Samuel Umtiti’s leg.
However, if those calls were fortunate for Real Madrid, they didn’t get the rub of the green later in the game when Marcelo went down in the box under a challenge from Alba.
The referee waved away Real’s appeals for a penalty, but Watford manager Javi Gracia said on Sky Sports: “It’s a penalty. There is clear contact.”
Barca survive to stay unbeaten
It won’t be an El Clasico that lives too long in the memory in terms of drama and overall quality, but that won’t matter for Barcelona. What matters to them is that they stayed unbeaten, even after playing the second half with 10 men.
In fact, Barca arguably performed better when it was 11 v 10 as Real Madrid looked the more threatening side in the first half and created the better chances. The visitors, though, couldn’t make their numerical advantage count as they struggled to break down Barcelona, who didn’t press as high and waited longer to try to win the ball.
Barca is now just three games away from becoming the first side to complete an unbeaten La Liga season since Real Madrid achieved it in 1932. That, though, was when the season only compromised of 18 games, so Barca are on track to make history in a 38-game campaign.
Barca and the El Clasico finishes their season with home games against Villarreal and Real Sociedad and a trip to Levante. Real Sociedad are in mid-table while Levante has nothing left to play for this season and Villarreal still need points to make sure of a top-six finish.
Ronaldo injury worry
Perhaps the biggest concern for Real Madrid on the night was the sight of Cristiano Ronaldo grimacing after he scored the first equaliser in the 14th minute.
Ronaldo collided with Gerard Pique as he bundled the ball into the net from close range and went off the pitch to get treatment after seemingly suffering an injury.
Although he played on for the rest of the first half, he was taken off at half-time, more, it sounds, as a precaution with the Champions League final against Liverpool only three weeks away on May 26.
“He is a bit worried, as the ankle is a bit swollen,” said Real head coach Zinedine Zidane afterwards. “But he says it is not so much.
“I think it’s going to be a small thing, it was only a bad movement. I can’t say how long he’ll be out for, tomorrow he’ll have a scan…It’s not a worry for the Champions League final.”
As expected there was no guard of honour from Real Madrid for the champions, but there was affection shown towards Andres Iniesta in his 38th and final Clasico.
The 33-year-old received hugs from some Real Madrid players, before looking the most assured player on the pitch in a largely low-key first half. One turn away from Bale that drew a foul was a reminder of his qualities, and it was slightly surprising that he was sacrificed in the second half to a standing ovation when Ernesto Valverde wanted to add another defensive player.
Reflecting on the impact of Iniesta’s departure afterwards, Sky Sports Spanish football expert Guillem Balague commented: “We said when Xavi left that he would be irreplaceable. Ivan Rakitic has done a job to keep that role going, then you wonder why it is that Barcelona still win in a certain style, and that’s down to Iniesta. Replacing him is going to be impossible.
Stars show clinical side
Suarez. Ronaldo. Messi. Bale. El Clasico
Arguably the four most high-profile players on the pitch all got on the scoresheet, with three of them providing clinical moments in front of goal to score.
Ronaldo, who bundled in his goal from a yard out, might well have done the same if he had stayed on the pitch beyond half-time, but Suarez, Messi and Bale all struck when given opportunities.
Suarez and Bale otherwise had few openings in front of goal, while Messi and Ronaldo were thwarted by saves from Keylor Navas and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.