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Bale denies 10 man Barca as feisty El Clásico ends 2-2

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BARCELONA – Gareth Bale scored a stunning equalizer for Real Madrid to deny La Liga champions Barcelona victory in a fierce El Clásico which ended 2-2 at the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona.

In a pulsating match, the Catalans whose Sergi Roberto was sent off just before the break clung on with ten men to draw against the European champions and continue their unbeaten run in the Spanish top flight this season.

After an end to end 10 minutes dominated by the hosts, the Blaugranas broke the deadlock with a sensational move when former Liverpool forward Luis Suarez provided a long ball to Roberto who then made a fantastic run to cross it to the Uruguayan who would simply volley that to the far post to make it 1-0.

However Los Blancos replied to the goal in no time when Cristiano Ronaldo after a nice build up silenced the booing Barca crowd five minutes later from close range tucking in a Benzema header from a Toni Kroos cross. It was goal number 450 for the five times Ballon d’Or winner for Real Madrid.

Ronaldo was substituted at half-time after he suffered an ankle sprain by Gerrard Pique challenge and the Portugal skipper will be hoping to come back in time for the Champions League final at Kiev against Liverpool on May 26.

Roberto, the architect of Saurez goal was shown a straight red card in the stoppage time of the first half after the Barca full back appeared to slap Real defender Marcelo in an off the ball altercation.

But after the break Lionel Messi stepped up and scored a mesmerizing goal to put the home side back in front after 52 minutes before former Spurs talisman Bale notched a sublime curler in the 72nd minute to cancel the Argentine’s record-extending 26th Clásico goal.

Messi’s goal was his 33 in the domestic competition two ahead of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the race for the Golden Shoe in Europe.

The already crowned Barca have now 87 points while Real who reached third consecutive Champions League final stay on third in the domestic table with 72 points after 35 games.

Europa League finalists Atletico Madrid, who lost their unbeaten home record in a 2-0 defeat by Espanyol earlier on Sunday, are second on 75 but have played one game more.

Foul Clásico

Despite bearing no relevance in the title race, the stage was set for a high-altitude game between these European power houses as Real refused to give the La Liga champions a traditional guard of honour after Ernesto Valverde’s side secured a 25th La Liga title last weekend.

When Zinedine Zidane’s players came out to warm up, Barca fans chanted about being champions, and the Galacticos were welcomed with the hoarding written as champions to flare up the scene.

From the beginning Ronaldo and Real skipper Sergio Ramos were subject to recurrent boos and jeers from the exasperating Nou Camp crowd while they cheered for Messi and Andres Iniesta who was playing his 38th and final El Clásico whenever the duo touched the ball.

Both the teams playing for nothing but pride the atmosphere was tense throughout the contest in which Referee Alejando Hernandez showed a total of eight yellow cards as well as the straight red for Roberto.

The tension was prevalent with otherwise calm Messi, Luka Modric and Keyler Navas all involved in minor scuffles and went to referee’s book.

Messi was booked for an intentional challenge on Ramos who had earlier fought with Suarez which led to both players getting booked. Bale however got away with a nasty challenge on Samuel Umtiti while Roberto was sent off for an apparent slap on Brazilian Marcelo.

Suarez seemed to have fouled Raphael Varane in the build-up to Messi’s goal before he was wrongfully denied a goal for offside while on 76th minute Real was denied a clear penalty when Jordi Alba tackled Marcelo inside the box.

“It was a very intense Clásico and we all want to win, in a game of this kind there is always tension.” The Barca boss Valverde told in the post-match reaction.

“The match deserved it, we had a great game despite the difficulties. It’s a shame we couldn’t win.” The Spaniard told about the Nou Camp atmosphere.

“We want to remain unbeaten at the end of the season. We are a team that never surrenders and it is something so incredible that we don’t need to seek incentives.” He added.

Zidane was also satisfied with the result as Real struggled another year to claim a victory in Barca’s home.

“I’d have liked to have won. There was nothing at stake but it was a good Clásico, high intensity and chances. They played well and so did we. Everyone who likes football can be happy with a game like that. Football is always more important than the controversy that you want to create”. The Real boss said in the post-match press coference,

“We had a good opportunity to win today, clearly, we had a lot of chances to score, especially in the first half, in the end it was a draw and that’s that, there are two games left and, in the end, Barcelona will finish the season unbeaten”. The Frenchman added.

“A Clásico is never just another match. We knew what we were playing for. We wanted to win and Madrid had a very good game in general. This is the way to prepare for the final in Kiev”. Real captain Ramos reacted about the intense match.

Barcelona and Real Madrid both return to La Liga on Wednesday when Barca will host sixth placed Villarreal while Madrid will travel to seventh placed Sevilla.

FT Staff writer

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