Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo Shine for Barcelona, Real Madrid in El Clasico

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Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo Shine for Barcelona, Real Madrid in El Clasico

This one belonged to the two.

And you don't even have to ask. We all know which two.

Barcelona and Real Madrid drew 2-2 on Sunday in a classic El Clasico that saw both teams' superstars excel in clutch moments. Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi both scored twice in a see-saw battle, and both teams will feel they could have won.

The season is young yet, but the stakes were high even at this early stage. Hosts Barcelona—with a perfect record of six wins in six matches—entered with an eight-point lead over Real, the defending league champions. Real had started the season slowly with two losses already, but Barcelona faced the bigger crisis with an injury-ravaged defense.

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

All that amounted to a match full of drama, thrills and brilliance. And whether you're new to the sport or a grizzled veteran, the match demonstrated a few points with remarkable clarity.

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Put simply, this match reminded us why we love watching this sport, this league, these two teams and, especially, these two superstars.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a pinpoint shot low at the near post. Messi equalized eight minutes later after Real Madrid defender Pepe redirected the ball into the Argentine's path.

It was an atypically plain goal from Messi, the three-time defending World Player of the Year. His second, on the other hand, was vintage Messi—a beautifully curled free kick that beat both the Real Madrid wall and world-class keeper Iker Casillas in the 61st minute.

If the first was plain, the second was worthy of being a match-winner, but Ronaldo wasn't done yet. The Portuguese star accelerated onto a Mesut Ozil through-ball and finished coolly just five minutes later to provide the final margin.

Both teams threatened in the closing stages, but neither found the net again. On this day, that was appropriate.

This match belonged to its two superstars. Sometimes, it seems, so does the entire sport.

 

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