by Ryan D. Jaeger
With just a handful of Spanish La Liga games left this season, it was crucial for second place club C.F. Real Madrid to beat leaders F.C Barcelona and pick up three much-needed points to help narrow the gap, but it was not to be as their Saturday showdown ended in a 1-1 draw.
When Barcelona travelled to face Real Madrid at at Santiago Bernabéu, there was no doubt this game would be one of the most important and toughest of the season, considering the championship has come down to these two teams. Barcelona has 85 points to Real Madrid's 77, while third place Valencia is way behind on 63 points.
From the start both teams played tactical, but cautious football, with neither willing to give an inch. And while the visitors retained possession more than the home team, Real Madrid's defenses were top-notch, preventing Barcelona from scoring. Although it has to be said that Barcelona did not create as many opportunities as they could have.
In fact, there were only two noteworthy opportunities in the first half for Barcelona. The first one saw forward Lionel Messi take possession and attempt to chip past Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas, but the Madrid captain stood his ground. And the second, just before half-time, saw Messi challenge Casillas again, but that effort too was denied.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, also missed out on a couple of chances, most notably when Cristiano Ronaldo's superb header was denied when it was cleared off the line by Barca defender Adriano. The different agendas of the two teams was very apparent. While Real Madrid seemed desperate to score, Barcelona seemed happy for a draw.
That said, it was Barcelona that scored in the 51st minutes of the second half, when Messi converted a penalty awarded when he was brought down by Real's Albiol to go 1-0 up. But just when Madrid looked beaten, Barcelona returned the favour and gave away a penalty in the 81st minute, which Ronaldo sent into the back of Barca's net.
So with the score at 1-1 at the final whistle and one point richer each, the eight-point gap between Barcelona and Real Madrid remains in place.
Here are the complete La Liga results from the weekend:
|Real Madrid C.F.
||Real Racing Club
||Real S. de Gijón
||At. de Madrid
|C. At. Osasuna
||Real Zaragoza CD