As they say in Spain after a monumental El Clasico: hay Liga. On the left feet of Lionel Messi (twice) and Ivan Rakitic, Barcelona took down Real Madrid in a most dramatic fashion, taking over the top spot in La Liga for the time being. Despite a late equalizer from Colombian international James Rodriguez, Barcelona took the full three points from the Estadio Bernabeu following Messi’s 92nd near-post strike past standout Keylor Navas.
Now, the Catalan club heads into a much softer end of the season needing only 3 dropped points by the capital’s Merengues squad in order to claim the La Liga title for the third straight year. While other players starred throughout (Rakitic’s curler for Barcelona’s second was unstoppable, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen was majestic in goal), Sunday’s matchup was the Lionel Messi Show. Following an accidental elbow to the head from Marcelo, the Argentine picked apart Real’s defense with one of his signature tight dribbles in the box, slotting past Navas to tie the game in the 33rd minute, just 5 minutes after Casemiro had put Real up.
But the goal that might have shifted the balance of power back to Barcelona came on the last play of the game, as Sergi Roberto dribbled past Marcelo–who inexplicably did not take him down to stop the counter–and drove forward into a 5-on-3 counter, the result of which was Messi unchecked at the top of the box. One left footed curler later, and Barcelona had claimed a victory that could save a season many had called “in crisis.”
On the other end, Real Madrid will surely regret a slew of missed chances, most of them falling to their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. Los Blancos might have considered themselves unlucky for captain Sergio Ramos’s red card, as the Spanish man’s two-footed tackle only seemed to graze Lionel Messi. Of course, blaugrana supporters will point to Casemiro’s continued presence on the pitch, as the Brazilian should have likely been sent off for a second yellow card early in the second half.
Now, Madrid must face a schedule that sees them facing Sevilla, Valencia, and Malaga in La Liga, on top of drawing their city rivals Atletico Madrid for the Champions League semi-finals. While they do have a game in hand with the same amount of points as Barcelona (75), it will take a Herculean effort to keep pace, especially since they will be without Ramos for at least one league game; the captain’s sarcastic clapping as he walked off following his red card might earn him a Neymar-like suspension, although reports came out that he was clapping at Gerard Pique, not a referee.