Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo matched each other blow for blow at the Nou Camp tonight, scoring two goals apiece as Barcelona and Real Madrid battled out an entertaining draw in the first Clásico of the La Liga season. Heading into the game, Real Madrid trailed Barcelona by eight points, so this was billed as must-win win for the champions. Like they did when the two sides met in the Supercopa de España earlier this year, Madrid started off the better of the two sides and made the breakthrough midway through the first half when Ronaldo beat Víctor Valdés at his near post.
The great team rivalry between the two storied clubs, combined with the fact that these players are undoubtedly the best in the world, make a perfect storyline to follow for years to come. Ramos flashed a header just wide inside the 18th minute. That was the first good chance in the game. Iniesta attempted to reply a couple of minutes later but his effort from 20 yards out flew over the bar.
The deadlock got broken by a very familiar name, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese winger fired the ball at the back of the net with his left foot to give the visitors the lead midway through the first half. Benzema had a great opportunity to double the lead a few minutes later but his ball crashed off the post. It came back to Angel Di Maria who agonizingly fired it wide.
Adriano impressed in central defence, but centre-back is stretching the Brazilian's 'utility man' tag too far and he cannot be considered a solution in that role. With Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol sidelined, plus Eric Abidal out long-term and Dani Alves forced off injured, Vilanova reminded the press that he was denied his first-choice back line. But Puyol's problems are well known and Abidal has been out all year, so the argument hardly seemed convincing and had the club signed a centre-back in the summer, they surely would not be in this predicament now.
Barcelona had chances to win it late on, but Madrid had given as good as they got in the first half and should have been two up as Karim Benzema hit the post when he really should have scored shortly after Ronaldo's opener. Mourinho's men took the game to Tito's team and took advantage of some poor positioning from Barca's defence and midfield in the second goal. Vilanova has received much praise for his tactical nous but on occasions last night, his players were all over the place - except where they needed to be.
In the end, it was problems in defence which blighted Barca's campaign in 2011-12 - when the Catalans captured four trophies but missed out on La Liga and the Champions League. Already there are concerns this term, although their problems have been masked by their near-perfect start in the Primera Division. This battle might have hit its peak on Sunday when Barcelona and Real Madrid competed in the latest edition of El Clasico. The match ended in a 2-2 draw, with each forward scoring both goals for his team.