The first of four match-ups between Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona ended all square as the ten-man hosts came from behind to earn a share of the spoils at the Santiago Bernabéu.
It looked like Barcelona were going to take all three points after Raúl Albiol brought down David Villa in the box and Lionel Messi converted from the spot, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s 82nd-minute penalty meant that Barca’s lead at the top of La Liga stayed at eight points.
The opening El Clásico instalment started in a cagey manner with both sides feeling their way into the contest before Barcelona’s plentiful possession began to take its toll. After 30 minutes Barcelona had had 81% of the possession.
Andrés Iniesta, so often at the heart of Barça’s slick attacking play, lofted a delightful pass over Madrid’s square defence for Messi, but the Argentinian forward failed to lift the ball beyond the onrushing Iker Casillas. Moments later, the Madrid No1 was on hand again to deny the Liga’s leading marksman at his near post.
The hosts almost took an undeserved lead in first-half stoppage time, but Adriano cleared Ronaldo’s header off the line with Víctor Valdés beaten. José Mourinho’s men started the second half on the front foot as well, only to find themselves a goal and a man down shortly after a Ronaldo free-kick had come back off a post.
Albiol wrestled Villa to the ground inside the area and was harshly given a red card from the referee. The red card means that Albiol will now miss the cup final between these same two clubs next wee.
Messi stepped up and converted from the spot. The goal was his 30th of the season in La Liga and 49th in all competitions. Barca then threatened to extend their lead, Xavi Hernández clipping the crossbar after good play from Pedro Rodríguez.
Interestingly, it was after going a goal and a man down that Madrid started producing their best football.In the last quarter of an hour the game really opened up and became the kind of end-to-end football that Real Madrid plays so well.
In one of their attacks, Alves pulled down Marcelo in the box and Ronaldo stepped up and scored his first goal ever against Barcelona. Real almost clinched an unlikely victory late when Emmanuel Adebayor squared for Sami Khedira, but Valdés kept out the Germany midfielder powerful shot.
The draw all but guarantees that Barcelona will win the La Liga title this year, but the display of Real Madrid, especially after going down to 10-men will gave them a lot of encouragement ahead of the midweek cup-final between the two sides.
Elsewhere in La Liga, Valencia consolidated their position in third with a convincing 3-0 victory away against UAlmería, who are now four points adrift at the bottom. A Júlio Baptista double helped Málaga beat Mallorca 3-0 and lift Manuel Pellegrini’s side up to 17th, while Miku’s 76th-minute strike for Getafe dented Sevilla’s hopes of a top-four finish.