This game was the most open, and riveting of the four recent El Clasico’s with both sides committed to playing football and not diving all open the pitch.
Barca had the first chance of the game when Xavi Hernández’s 22nd-minute corner found an unmarked Sergio Busquets, but he headed the ball straight at Iker Casillas.
That chance seemed to spur Barcelona into action and ten minutes later Lionel Messi danced across the penalty area and forced Casillas to make a god save at full length. Messi continued to show why is the best player in the world as he took the ball of Lassana Diarra and released David Villa, but Casillas was up to the task once more.
So the first half ended scoreless and Real Madrid knew they had 45 minutes to score two goals if they wanted to send the game to extra time. And less than two minutes into the half it appeared that they had done just that.
Cristiano Ronaldo picked up the ball and attacked the Barca defence. He was tackled by Pique just as his pass sent Higuain free behind the Barcelona defence. Higuain smacked the ball past Valdes and into the net, but before he could celebrate he realized that referee De Bleeckere had disallowed the goal, deciding that fouled Mascherano as he fell from Pique’s challenge. A dubious call at best, and a decision that will be long debated in Spain.
Especially since six minutes later Barcelona scored, a goal that effectively ended the tie. Iniesta was the magical creator, curving the ball through a sea of white shirts straight into the path of Pedro. One touch to control, another to slide the ball past Casillas and the Camp Nou exploded.
Real Madrid kept pressing forward though and ten minutes later got the goal they deserved. Ángel Di María gained his first glimpse of open space, cracked a fierce shot off Víctor Valdés’ right-hand post and then showed the utmost calm to control the rebound and pass inside to Marcelo, who edged in front of Javier Mascherano, and buried the chance.
Madrid huffed and puffed some more but this was Barcelona’s night. Over the two legs they were the better side. In their personal battle of the best player in the world, Messi was brilliant over the two legs while Cristiano Ronaldo, was pretty invisible.