Spanish Liga - Two for Messi, two for Ronaldo as Real Madrid draw at Barcelona

La Liga, Nou Camp – Barcelona 2 (Messi 31, 61) Real Madrid 2 (Ronaldo (23, 66)

Spanish Liga - Honours even after El Clasico first-leg cup encounter

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A combination of two pictures taken on October 7, 2012 shows Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) and Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacting after scoring a goal during the Spanish League Clasico football match (AFP)

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show as Real Madrid drew 2-2 at Barcelona in a thrilling Clasico at the Nou Camp in La Liga.

Ronaldo put the visitors in front with a low shot at the near post to round off a flowing Real Madrid move, only for Messi to pounce on a Pepe error and level.

The Argentine then grabbed his second with a stunning free kick 61 minutes in, but five minutes later Ronaldo cancelled out the goal, stroking home after Mesut Ozil's through ball.

The draw means Barcelona preserve their eight-point lead over their arch-rivals after seven games of the Liga season.

Tito Vilanova had defensive troubles, pairing Javier Mascherano with Adriano in central defence after losing Carles Puyol to a dislocated elbow in midweek. Real Madrid, coming back into form, were able to name their strongest side.

And the visitors began the stronger, making better use of their time on the ball, even though Jose Mourinho's side only had 30% of the possession in the course of the match.

Karim Benzema should have done better when left unmarked 12 minutes in, scuffing a shot wide, while Sergio Ramos had a free header and nodded wide soon after.

Ronaldo came into the game on the back of successive hat-tricks, and was clinical in finishing off a slick move engineered by Sami Khedira and Benzema making space for him.

Two minutes later, the lead should have doubled, with Angel di Maria and Khedira linking to play in Benzema, who could only hit the post from just outside the six-yard box. Di Maria spurned another good chance on the rebound.

Vilanova made a surprise call, withdrawing Dani Alves from the game after just half an hour, much to the full-back's displeasure, for youngster Roberto Montoya. Contentious or not, Barcelona soon improved.

The Catalans, who had been limited to a couple of speculative hits from distance, levelled when Andres Iniesta set up Pedro to cross, Pepe flapping when he should have cleared, leaving Messi to apply a simple finish.

There were plenty of the cynical fouls which have blighted some Clasicos - six yellow cards in all were issued , and 33 fouls awarded - and it took a while for the second half to break into life.

Ozil had a penalty shout turned down early in the second half when Mascherano appeared to clip him, but Pepe caught Iniesta inside the area not long after, and again no spot-kick was awarded.

It took a moment of genius for Barcelona to take the lead: Messi's curling left-footed free kick was hit with speed and whip, and Iker Casillas could do nothing about it.

Ronaldo tried to level with an overhead kick, damaging his shoulder in the process, but despite playing the remainder of the half in pain he was on hand to tuck away the equaliser after a sumptuous pass from Ozil.

With a quarter of the match the result could have gone either way, though it was Real Madrid substitute Montoya who came closest to settling it with a placed-yet-powerful shot from distance which struck the crossbar.

But despite dropping their first points of the season, Barcelona will surely be the happier of the sides, having preserved their lead over Real. Even with 31 games of the season remaining, it's an advantage which already threatens to keep Mourinho's men at bay in the title race.

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