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Messi, Ronaldo restore dignity to Barca vs. Madrid

Associated Press Modified: October 8, 2012 at 10:17 am •  Published: October 8, 2012
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Ronaldo's first goal was a combination of precision and power as he sliced Karim Benzema's pass with a single touch between the near post and goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

With Madrid surging forward, Messi then responded with a never-give-up effort, sneaking in among Madrid's bulking defenders to grab a loose ball and audaciously poke it home.

The Argentina forward then stepped up to convert a sublime free kick from almost 25 yards out that he himself had earned by drawing a foul with another intrepid incursion through the heart of Madrid's defense.

Messi's dipping free kick, reminiscent of the one he scored at the Santiago Bernabeu in the return leg of the Spanish Super Cup, gave him 17 career goals against Madrid. Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano, who played in the 1950s-60s, holds the record of 18.

"It would be an honor to equal Di Stefano's record because he meant so much (to football)," Messi said.

Ronaldo, however, was not done, and he worked into position to receive Mesut Oezil's pass and coolly slot by Valdes to silence the 98,000 strong Camp Nou crowd and justly split the points.

Madrid could have gone up 2-0 if Benzema hadn't scuffed a clean look off the upright, while Barcelona's Martin Montoya almost snatched a late victory with a long strike that hit the crossbar. But it seems apt that neither team could say they were better on such a night.

Madrid-friendly sports daily Marca echoed coach Jose Mourinho with its headline Monday: "From another planet: Messi and Ronaldo show with their doubles why they are the best in the world."

Mourinho, who accused Barcelona of receiving preferential treatment by referees in the Champions League two seasons ago, was seemingly disarmed by the pair of competing superstars.

"Everyone is happy (with the result) because many times these important games are too tactical, and there are not enough goals, but this 'clasico' match had everything that people like to see," Mourinho said.

Mourinho even appears to have made progress in his relationship with counterpart Tito Vilanova, who received a finger in the eye from the Portuguese coach just over a year ago at the end of a heated encounter.

"I thought it was a great game, and I told Vilanova so afterward," Mourinho said.