Real Madrid were handed a significant blow in the title race as Barcelona beat Los Blancos 3-2 in the El Clasico on Sunday night
Casemiro opened the scoring for the hosts with a rare goal, after latching onto a rebound in the box, before Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic scored to hand the visitors the advantage on a night that was filled with drama.
Sergio Ramos was then sent off for a dangerous tackle on Lionel Messi before substitute James Rodriguez pulled one back for the hosts to level the scores, despite Madrid being down to 10 men and feeling the pressure.
However, it was that man again and Lionel Messi scored a late winner to hand Barcelona a massive three points – while Cristiano Ronaldo was seen exploding in a fit of rage after Madrid’s concession of the late goal.
The result means that Barcelona have now moved ahead of Real Madrid in the table, although the two sides are even on points and are separated only by goal difference – with Real Madrid having played one game fewer than the Catalans. We take a look at the key talking points from the match.
Messi’s magnificence on show once more
Lionel Messi’s inability to score against Juventus was roundly criticised and many felt that the Barcelona man had to step up in bigger matches following that loss. That is exactly what the Argentinian genius did against Real Madrid.
Messi is often targeted in big matches and systematically fouled by opposition players. It was no different against Real Madrid, who sought to interrupt play every time the Barcelona forward got on the ball.
Messi was even left with a bloodied nose after a collision with Marcelo – who had no intention of hurting the Barcelona man – but this did nothing to deter his drive and determination to turn his team’s fortunes around.
On Sunday night, Messi’s statistics were nothing short of incredible. He completed 7 successful take ons, took 6 shots and, of course, ended the match with 2 goals to his name, taking his total tally for Barcelona to 500 goals in just 577 appearances.
— The Ball Whisperer (@MessiQuote) April 24, 2017
Ronaldo fails to make his mark on the game
While Lionel Messi was derided for his failure to score against Juventus in the Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo was earning all the plaudits after his brace against Bayern Munich sent Real Madrid through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
Last night, their roles were reversed. Ronaldo had several opportunities to score and despite his best efforts, the Portuguese legend simply could not get on the score sheet. Ronaldo also missed a fairly simple goal after looping a shot over the bar, although to be fair to the Madrid man, the ball was slightly behind him.
However, players of his calibre put those chances away and it was an off-night for the forward, on a night that Madrid needed all hands on deck. His frustration at the end of the game was evident and one cannot help but think that his ire was directed internally as well as at his teammates.
Ronaldo’s reaction to Messi’s 92nd minute winning goal ❤️❤️❤️❤️pic.twitter.com/NZvBJXoZOJ
— Leo Messi (@messi10stats) April 24, 2017
Sergio Ramos wrong to complain about red card
Sergio Ramos was sent off for a dangerous lunge on Lionel Messi and despite the Madrid man’s insistence after the game that he had no intention of hurting his opponent, the fact remains that the tackle was a very dangerous one.
Ramos is not a violent player, but he is not the cleanest player either. His lunge on Messi was late, high and if it had caught the Argentinian with enough impact, would surely have led to a bad injury.
Ramos was seen applauding Gerard Pique – who has been ranting on social media about alleged preferential treatment that Madrid get from officials – but there is no doubt that the referee made the right call on Sunday night, despite what Ramos may think.
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) April 24, 2017
Bale injured once more
Gareth Bale has had an injury-plagued season and has never really got going thanks to the constant interruptions. Last night, Zidane should have perhaps left the Welshman on the bench as opposed to starting him when he wasn’t fully fit.
That decision looked even worse when Bale limped off in the 39th minute for Marcos Asensio with what is a suspected calf injury. At a time when Real Madrid cannot afford any more slip ups, losing one of their best players is going to be a huge blow and Zidane will be hoping that Bale makes an immediate recovery.
The fact that the season Isco is having, and how well Asensio been recently, we started unfit Bale who was out for weeks. DISGUSTING.
— Rk (@RahatRMFC) April 23, 2017
The title race is well and truly on
The game was billed as a make-or-break match for Barcelona’s La Liga title hopes and there was no doubt that the Catalans needed the win more. An important away victory that Enrique will be hoping will galvanise the team after the disappointment against Juventus, it also means that neutrals have a lot to look forward to.
The way the table stands, every weekend could be the one that one team gets an unassailable advantage over the other and despite the fact that Madrid have a game in hand, the pressure is now on Los Blancos to win every match they have remaining.