Lionel Messi may be getting the better of Cristiano Ronaldo on the awards stage, but Ronaldo is winning the battle of the stars on the pitch.
Ronaldo netted two goals at Camp Nou on Tuesday to give Madrid a 3-1 win over Barcelona to advance past the semifinals of the Copa del Rey. They won 4-2 on aggregate.
This match got off to a quick start. Just two minutes in, Lionel Messi took a pass from Pedro in the keeper's area, but his shot narrowly missed. The quick start and pace was indicative of things to come.
The action was fast and intense. In the seventh minute, Diego Lopez stopped an Cesc Fabregas effort, and at that point, with Barca controlling possession, it looked like they would wear Madrid down.
However, that perception was quickly changed. Ronaldo cut into the box, but was awarded a penalty after being taken down by Gerard Pique. Ronaldo converted in the lower right corner in the 13th minute.
That was the lone goal of the first half. However, there was still plenty of back and forth action. Barcelona continued to control possession, but the offensive attack was rather listless.
Meanwhile, Barca also wasted a lot of energy looking towards the referees for foul calls.
The second half began like the first half was played. There was a bunch of quality soccer, some possession for Barcelona, but no damage.
Then, in the 57th minute, Angle Di Maria made a nice break, but his shot was deflected by the keeper. Unfortunately for Barcelona, it rebounded to Ronaldo, who netted his second goal from five yards out.
The 2-0 edge meant the Barcelona could not settle for a draw if they wanted to advance, and they had to press. It did not work.
Madrid earned a corner in the 68th minute and Raphael Varane, who scored Madrid's key goal in the first leg, went up to deliver a header past the keeper and a 3-0 lead.
The insurmountable lead proved to be just that as the match came to a close with the 3-0 score holding.
Cristiano Ronaldo: A+
There was a time when it was fair to question Ronaldo on the biggest stages. That time has clearly passed. El Clasicos always provide a big stage, and Ronaldo has come up huge.
In his last seven El Clasicos, Ronaldo has now netted eight goals.
In this match, he was superb from start to finish as he was giving Barca's defense fits even when he wasn't scoring.
Raphael Varane: A
After netting a goal in the first leg of this match, 19-year-old defender Raphael Varane figured to have a hard time matching his El Clasico debut. Maybe it wasn't that hard after all.
Varane played fantastic, and his brilliant header highlighted his day while also closing the door on Barcelona's Cope del Rey chances.
Lionel Messi: C
Lionel Messi was barely noticeable in this match. It didn't look like that was going to be the case after his early narrow miss, but the legend was ineffective.
His lack of performance was so obvious that there was a host of tweets like this flying up on Twitter:
Somebody PLEASE make some flyers and posters we have a missing person...Lionel messi— Lucky Singh (@Lucko_Rani) February 26, 2013
Jose Pinto: C
While keeper Jose Pinto did not receive a lot of help from his defense, there's no two ways around it: He struggled.
He was often out of position and was slow to react. Barcelona needed an amazing performance from their keeper today. Instead, they received a poor one.