HIGH drama at the Bernabeu tonight saw Lionel Messi crack a 92nd minute winner and his 500th goal as Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 3-2
The three points for Luis Enrique’s side blows the title race wide open, with the Catalans now top of the table on goal difference.
It was the sweetest El Clasico victory for Barca against ten-man Real Madrid, who were left counting the cost of Sergio Ramos’ straight Red
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Messi ended the game with a brace, overshadowing Ronaldo who had a quiet game, partly because he was starved of service up top.
Here’s five things we learnt from El Clasico.
You will NEVER keep 500-up Messi down
Most players would find it hard to get back into their stride after being knocked for six by a stray arm to the mouth.
But not the world’s best player.
Lionel Messi was caught, unintentionally, with an elbow to the mouth by Real Madrid’s Marcelo 21 minutes in.
This was no case of a player over-reacting, with blood pouring from the Argentinian’s mouth.
But two minutes later, a tissue hanging from his mouth, the little magician was back on the pitch, intent on terrorising the Madrid backline.
And 11 minutes later, Messi took two deft touches in the box and fired home the equaliser for his side.
The heart of a lion and the football skills of arguably the greatest ever.
But it got even better.
Goal number 500 of an unreal career arrived in the second minute of injury time.
Real Madrid fans were stunned, Barca were joyous, and the title race was blown wide open.
Bale should have started the game on the bench
Just 39 minutes into El Clasico, Gareth Bale was walking off the pitch holding his calf, the be replaced by Marco Asensio.
The 27-year-old was crocked in Los Blancos’ first-leg Champions League win over Bayern Munich earlier this month.
He came back this week and played 60 minutes in Zinadine Zidane’s side triumph over the German giants.
But it appears his comeback came too soon, as he hobbled out of the top-of-the-table clash tonight holding his calf.
In the blood and thunder of such a derby, it would perhaps have been more sensible to have a semi-fit Bale as an option from the bench in hindsight.
Now the worry will be if he has to sit out the remainder of the season.
Neither side NEEDS a new goalkeeper
Rumours will never go away concerning the goalkeepeing position at both of these La Liga heavyweights.
Despite nailing down the number one jersey at Barcelona, Marc-Andre ter Stegen has not fully won over the Catalan crowd.
But it’s hard to understand why not. In this game he made a string of world class saves to keep his side in the game, the best being a terrific save from a Karim Benzema header from six yards out.
And if reports are to be believed, Real Madrid will go all out to bring Manchester United keeper David de Gea to the Bernabeu this summer.
Spanish media talk like it is something imperative. But in Keylor Navas they have an athletic shot-stopper who oozes confidence. He made an unbelievable save from a Pique header on 59 minutes, and shone again when denying Luis Suarez at point blank range in the 67th minute.
Barca should look at the defence, and Real Madrid could do with searching for a long-term replacement for Ronaldo as priority.
Forget his goals, Sergio Ramos is a liability
Okay so this may be well argued, but you can’t afford to have your captain and leader completely lose the plot in the biggest game of the season.
But that’s exactly what Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos did tonight.
Messi was looking to mount an attack, and then out of nowhere Ramos slid in two-footed leaving referee Alejandro José Hernández Hernández little choice but to brandish the red card.
It says a lot about the defender’s defensive skills when he has become more known for his winning and equalising goals of late.
It was his first red card of the season. His last sending off? Against Barcelona last April.
In a game of monumental importance in the La Liga title race, Ramos now not only needs to have a word with himself, but boss Zinedine Zidane should have one with him too.
James Rodriguez needs to move to the Premier League
It’s been well documented that James Rodriguez is unhappy at being a bit-part player at Real Madrid.
Pick any other team in the world, and there would be a starting place for the Colombian player.
On he came after Ramos came off, replacing Karim Benzema who had a poor game, and he scored the late equaliser that left Real Madrid in pole position to win the La Liga title.
Manchester United and Chelsea are both interested in snapping up Rodriguez.
They should start those negotiations quickly. Imagine what he is like when he is happy!