Gareth Bale, Real Madrid Battle to 2-2 Clasico Draw with Barcelona at Camp Nou

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2018

Spanish referee Alejandro Hernandez (C) shows a yellow card to Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on May 6, 2018. (Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
PAU BARRENA/Getty Images

Gareth Bale scored the equaliser for Real Madrid in Sunday's Clasico against Barcelona as the two rivals shared the spoils after a hard-fought match.

Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo both scored in a fiery first half that ended with several bust-ups and a straight red card for Sergi Roberto.

Down to 10 men, Barcelona fought like lions in the second half and regained the lead through Lionel Messi. Real, without a hobbled Ronaldo after the break, equalised again through Gareth Bale and couldn't find a late winner.

The result means Barcelona's bid to go an entire La Liga campaign unbeaten is still alive.

Here are the key takeaways from Sunday's El Clasico.

It's Bale or Ronaldo, but Not Both

Bale was practically invisible during the first half of Sunday's Clasico, while team-mate Ronaldo had several chances to add to his one goal but was clearly held back by his knock.

Real fans were probably ready to bury the Wales international for his poor outing at half-time, but after Marco Asensio replaced Ronaldo, Bale grew into the match and eventually found the equaliser. 

Asensio and Isco tend to bring out the best in Bale, who can time his runs inside a little earlier without Ronaldo occupying those spaces. When the two speedsters play together, Ronaldo understandably becomes the top priority, but it makes Bale a poor fit alongside the Ballon d'Or holder.

The stats suggest Bale can still be a major asset in the right circumstances―there's no point ditching him entirely:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid Gareth Bale fires Real Madrid level -- He's now had a direct hand in a goal in 5 of his last 6 league appearances, scoring 5 goals and registering 1 assist Follow the action live -- https://t.co/BOrbB2O7F3

Manager Zinedine Zidane will have some decisions to make on Bale in the summer, but right now, he has to stop pairing him with Ronaldo. If the knock that saw the latter depart at half-time turns out to be serious, the issues becomes moot in the UEFA Champions League final, but if not, it's a tactical decision he has to make.


Sunday's Result May Have Been Barcelona's Best

Unbeaten Barcelona have won 26 matches in La Liga this season, but if they manage to complete their "invincible" campaign, this 2-2 draw against their archrivals may go down as their best result of them all.

Not only did the Blaugrana survive Real's push for a winner with relative ease despite being down a man, but the Catalans had the better chances after the break and perhaps should have won.

Former England international Gary Lineker already has a nickname lined up for the champions:

Gary Lineker @GaryLineker

Classic Clasico finishes 2-2. @FCBarcelona remain unbeaten in La Liga. Los Invencibles.

Petty Real Refuse Guard of Honour

La Liga has a longstanding tradition of honouring its champions with a guard of honour, but Real Madrid had no interest in paying homage to their rivals, setting the tone for a chippy affair.

They were widely mocked for their petty stance, and deservedly so:

B/R Football @brfootball

How it should have been 👀 https://t.co/1CaWSXbSUD

Los Blancos will defend their decision by pointing out Barcelona didn't do the same after Real won the Club World Cup, but there's no such tradition. Real were wrong, plain and simple.


El Clasico Needs Better Officials
If fans were afraid Sunday's Clasico would be a tame affair due to the lack of silverware at stake, they clearly weren't paying attention to how badly these teams hate each other. Aided by an official who completely lost the plot, the match got out of control at the end of the first half.

Suarez and Sergio Ramos started things off with a shoving match, Lionel Messi retaliated, and things only got worse from that point. Somehow, Gareth Bale got away with a horror tackle on Samuel Umtiti that didn't even result in a card, while Roberto lost his head and lashed out at Marcelo, earning himself an early shower.

Sportswriter Sid Lowe was not impressed with the officiating:

Sid Lowe @sidlowe

Referee has lost control and so have some of the players

Messi's second-half goal came after what appeared to be a clear foul from Suarez on Raphael Varane, but play was allowed to continue.


Liverpool Can Feast on This Real Defence

Suarez's opening goal came after a wonderful attack that saw Roberto pick out the striker with a great cross, but it was hard to ignore the acres of space the full-back found himself in. Marcelo completely lost track of his man, the latest in a persistent line of defensive blunders that have plagued Real's defence of late.

ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan singled out the Brazilian:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

1-0 Barca. Sergi Roberto into the big gap where Marcelo wasn't, cross to back post picks out Suarez who expertly volleys home.

Messi's goal likely shouldn't have stood as Suarez was too aggressive in winning the ball from Varane, but the French defender didn't have the strongest footing and could have done better.

Between Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Liverpool have the pace and quality to exploit such mistakes in the Champions League final.


Ronaldo Surpassed Di Stefano Long Ago

Alfredo Di Stefano is a celebrated figure in Real history for all the right reasons, but Sunday, Ronaldo tied yet another one of his club records:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

CR7 continues to get the job done https://t.co/DGhhS8ghNt

Some fans were already convinced Raul surpassed Di Stefano as Real's greatest ever forward in the previous decade, but both of them sit well behind Ronaldo in that pecking order at this point.


Benzema's Surging Confidence

Karim Benzema has been a constant target for criticism all year long, but the former Lyon man is quietly putting together a solid stretch of late. He played a massive role in the Champions League semi-finals triumph against Bayern Munich, and it was his clever headed assist Sunday that gave Ronaldo the equaliser on a platter.

He has often reserved his best performances for the European stage, including this year, bagging four goals in the Champions League and just five in La Liga. It would be a fitting end to the season if his improving form saw him star against Liverpool later this month.


What's Next?

Barcelona host Villarreal on Wednesday, while Real visit Sevilla.


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