Lionel Messi struck at the last on Sunday as Barcelona’s earned an epic 3-2 win at Real Madrid to keep themselves in the running for the Spanish title. UEFA.com feels the aftershocks.
Messi leaves his mark again
The Argentinian had failed to net against Real Madrid since 2014 although the top scorer in the history of the Clásico was apparently just biding his time. He sliced the opposition defence open with lightning-quick footwork to cancel out Casemiro’s opener and then crashed in Jordi Alba’s cutback with the very last kick of the game, choosing the ideal moment to score his 500th goal for Barcelona and his 23rd against Real Madrid.
“Messi can make the difference even when he’s at home having dinner,” raved Luis Enrique. Gerard Piqué added: “Once again, the best player in the world and of all time has come here and given us a performance – a spectacle.”
Barça’s turn to leave it late
Sergio Ramos spoiled the last Clásico for Barcelona back in December by earning Madrid a 1-1 draw in the 90th minute, and there must have been a familiar feeling brewing inside the Blaugrana players when James Rodríguez knocked in from close range in the 86th minute to level the scores.
Just six minutes later, however, Madrid’s Liga lead had been cut from three points to none in one flash of Messi’s left boot. “In a way we beat them at their own game,” said Luis Enrique. “We like doing it this way, too.”
Title race on a knife edge
Barcelona now have a slender advantage as the title race comes to a close; they are level with Real Madrid on 75 points, but top of the standings due to a superior head-to-head record.
However, Real Madrid have a game in hand – a fixture against Celta Vigo set to be reschduled in May – and if they win all their remaining games, the title is theirs. However, theirs is not an easy run-in: four away trips and home games against Valencia and Sevilla, the only two sides (along with Barça) to have beaten them this season in the league.
Zinédine Zidane’s side also have a UEFA Champions League semi-final against Atlético Madrid to contend with, meaning they have nine more games to play compared to Barcelona’s six. Luis Enrique’s side have some tough games left too, though: a long trip to Las Palmas and a local derby at Espanyol, plus tricky home fixtures against Villarreal and Eibar.
Madrid down but far from out
Real Madrid last won the Liga trophy in 2012 and would have been in sight of the finish line had they beaten Barcelona on Sunday. Defeat was a blow, but perhaps not a crushing one.
“We’re hurt by the result as we could have made a huge statement,” said Ramos, who was sent off in the 77th minute. “We didn’t do it but we’re still all in the same boat. It is still all in our hands and we’re going to go for the league.”
Zidane acknowledged the Merengues faced a real battle for the trophy but backed his side to come out on top. “We’re not distraught and we’re not sunk,” he said. “Now the title race is going to be very tight and we’re going to have to fight for it, but I believe in my players and we’re going to keep going.”