Although Real Madrid were successful in keeping Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi off the scoreboard during their El Clasico clash at Estadio Camp Nou on Saturday, Messi made a definite impact on the match and was one of the driving forces behind Barca's big 2-1 win.
The big goal of the match was scored by Brazilian sensation Neymar in the 19th minute off a lovely feed from Andres Iniesta. While the frenetic Neymar will go down as the star of the match, Messi's presence made it possible for him to be successful on Saturday.
Barcelona dominated the possession battle during the first half, and although Madrid was able to make a comeback in that regard over the final 45 minutes of the match, it had plenty to do with Barca's victory. Messi proved very difficult to dispossess as is almost always the case. That prevented Madrid from getting as many scoring chances as they would have liked.
Messi ended the match with three attempted shots, and while none of them were on frame, he certainly had some opportunities. Messi's true value in this match is tough to measure, but it was blatantly clear that Madrid's defensive focus was on Messi above all other players. That opened things up for the likes of Neymar, and led directly to Barca's triumph.
How would you grade Messi's performance against Real Madrid?
The win was a big one for Barcelona as it widened the gap atop the La Liga standings. Barca had 25 points entering the match and had yet to lose, while Madrid was trailing by three points in third place. Real Madrid desperately wanted a win as it would have complicated the table, but Barcelona did just enough to fend them off.
While few are talking about Messi in the aftermath of the match, the same can be said for rival Cristiano Ronaldo on the other side. Ronaldo looked dangerous at times, and he did assist on Madrid's late goal by Jese Rodriguez, but Barcelona did an excellent job in terms of neutralizing him.
Neither Messi nor Ronaldo turned in their best performance, but the biggest difference was that Messi had more support from his teammates than Ronaldo did. It was already fairly well known that Barca is capable of winning without a dominant showing from Messi, and that much was proven true on Saturday.
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