Barcelona and Real Madrid shared the spoils in an eventful El Clasico, which saw the La Liga champions play the second half with ten men after Sergi Roberto was sent off.
Big guns Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale all got on the scoresheet in a 2-2 draw, but that’s only the start of the story. Here are the three main talking points from Camp Nou.
MORE MESSI MAGIC
After a La Liga season freakishly dominated by Messi – top scorer, top assister, top pretty much everything else – it was only appropriate that the magical Argentine would make another big contribution in the final high-profile game of the season.
There was more than a hint of fortune in Messi’s goal as Suarez clearly appeared to foul Raphael Varane before then finding his fellow South American, but there was still plenty to do and Messi did it brilliantly, sidestepping past two defenders before rifling a precise low finish past Keylor Navas into the bottom left corner.
Messi had been a long way below his usual standards in the opening period, finding himself well shackled by Casemiro and unable to exert much impact. But seeing his team reduced to ten men before the break sent him into overdrive, and Messi played like a man possessed in the second half as he flew around the pitch with the kind of energy rarely seen from him these days.
He then had a chance to sentence the outcome with a shot which Keylor Navas well saved, but ending his wait of nearly six years for a Camp Nou Clasico goal in La Liga was enough to make a suitably big impression.
MADRID SHOW THEIR METTLE
After spending the last few months being widely ridiculed despite advancing into the Champions League Final, this was a good occasion for Madrid to show exactly why they are still more than capable of being the best team in the world and they did just that – especially in the first half.
Despite the shock of falling behind to Suarez’s early goal, the visitors soon grabbed hold of the game and took command, deserving their equaliser through Ronaldo and looking the more likely scorers before the game turned ugly shortly before the break with the dismissal of Roberto.
Madrid were particularly dominant in the centre of the field, where Casemiro did the dirty work, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos pulled the strings and Karim Benzema dropped deep to link midfield with attack.
They were doing equally as well without the ball, denying Messi the opportunity to regularly get on the ball and cutting out the threat Barca had earlier shown down the wings by pressing with good intensity to prevent the hosts from enjoying comfortable possession.
And after Messi struck early in the second half, they showed more resolve to keep fighting until Bale popped up to secure a deserved point.
BBC BACK… FOR THE LAST TIME?
Zinedine Zidane opted to field his ‘BBC’ forward line of Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo, which was previously a guaranteed feature of his starting eleven for big games but has rarely been seen in recent months with Bale’s loss of status.
And it may well prove to be the last time we will ever see that front three start together, because Bale did little to suggest that he should return to prominence by delivering a disappointingly disconnected display before popping up with an excellent equalising goal to secure a point.
Conversely, Benzema and Ronaldo were both excellent, regularly showing fluid movement and dangerous intent to repeatedly put Barca under pressure, but whether Bale’s goal was enough to convince Zidane that he should receive a more prominent role from now on is dubious.
With Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez on the bench and Isco soon to come back from injury, it appears unlikely that Bale will be given many more starts and his future at the club is looking more insecure than ever.
And perhaps more pertinently, Los Blancos are now sweating on the fitness of Ronaldo after he was forced off at half-time with a foot injury sustained in the process of scoring his equalising goal.