Barcelona, Real share spoils
Barcelona - Real Madrid came away with a point but failed to secure the victory
they needed to trim the gap on leaders Barcelona when the outstanding
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo each struck twice in an attritional
2-2 draw in La Liga on Sunday.
A stuttering start by Jose Mourinho's side had left them eight points
behind their great rivals after six matches, threatening to derail their
title defence before it had even got off the ground.
While they will take comfort from preventing Barca making it seven wins
out of seven this term, they may feel they let slip an opportunity in
the opening league 'Clasico' of the campaign after Ronaldo gave them a
23rd-minute lead in front of almost 100 000 fans packed into an electric
Nou Camp arena.
With millions more around the world watching the heavyweight clash,
Messi levelled eight minutes later after a defensive lapse by Pepe and
the Argentine World Player of the Year curled in a stunning free kick
just after the hour to make it 2-1.
Real were level within five minutes when Mesut Ozil slid the ball
through to Ronaldo and the Portuguese forward beat Victor Valdes for a
second time with a powerful low strike.
Barca came close to a winner in a frenetic ending when substitute Martin
Montoya crashed a long-range effort against the crossbar in the 89th
minute and Pedro dashed on to an Andres Iniesta pass in stoppage time
only to fire wastefully wide.
"We were superior at times but it was a very even game," Barca
midfielder Sergio Busquets said in an interview with Spanish television.
"Everything is the way it was but with one match less," added the Spain international.
Undefeated Barca have 19 points from seven games, three ahead of
Atletico Madrid, who host third-placed Malaga in Sunday's late kickoff.
Real, who have already lost twice, the same number of defeats as they
suffered in the whole of last season, are fifth on 11 points.
A blistering Obafemi Martins volley secured a 1-0 victory for Levante
against their more illustrious city neighbours Valencia earlier on
Sunday, heaping more pressure on Valencia coach Mauricio Pellegrino.
Pacy Nigeria forward Martins, who joined last month from Russian club
Rubin Kazan, sped on to a long clearance from Levante goalkeeper Gustavo
Munua in the 22nd minute at the Estadio Ciutat de Valencia.
The former Inter Milan and Newcastle forward controlled the bouncing
ball on his chest before smashing a shot into the roof of the net past
Valencia saw plenty of the ball but were toothless in attack and slipped
to a third defeat in seven league matches this season, leaving them in
14th on eight points, two behind Levante who climbed to 11th.
The inexperienced Pellegrino, a former defender who played for Valencia
and had a short stint at Liverpool, is in his first term in charge at
the club after succeeding Unai Emery at the end of last season.
Under Argentine Pellegrino, Valencia lost their opening Champions League
Group F match against last year's beaten finalists Bayern Munich but
recovered to beat Lille 2-0 at home.
Athletic Bilbao survived late pressure to beat visiting Osasuna 1-0 for only their second victory of the campaign.
Aritz Aduriz netted the only goal of an entertaining game in the 12th minute to lift the Basque club to 16th on eight points.
Real Mallorca and Granada both had a player sent off in their match in
Palma as Granada ran out 2-1 winners to climb to 15th, also on eight,
and Mallorca dropped down to sixth on 11 points.
For gorgeous gifts at gorgeous prices, click here for the ultimate Christmas gift guide from Clicks.