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Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo Comes Up Small in El Clasico

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2011

MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 10, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Barcelona picked up a crucial La Liga victory over rival Real Madrid on Saturday night, but the bigger story might have been superstar Cristiano Ronaldo's poor performance. His struggles were the main reason Los Blancos didn't secure at least one point.

On two occasions, Ronaldo faced a point-blank opportunity and couldn't manage to hit the net. They were chances the dynamic goal scorer almost always buries, which makes the misses all that more surprising to Real Madrid supporters.

There were also some times in space, where fans have come to expect miraculous moves from Ronaldo, where he was thwarted by Barcelona's back line. He seemed to lack the extra gear necessary to dominate the rivalry clash.

Real Madrid actually got off to the best start it could have hoped for, with Karim Benzema scoring fewer than 30 seconds after the opening whistle.

After that, Barcelona started to control the pace and eventually found enough holes in the Los Blancos defense to beat Iker Casillas. If it weren't for a couple big saves from the Spanish international, L'equip blaugrana could have scored another goal or two late.

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Madrid will be left to wonder what could have happened if Ronaldo had lived up to his usual elite standards. Does another first-half tally level out the momentum heading into halftime, allowing them to play a more defensive style and possibly pick up all three points? It's certainly possible.

But that's not the Ronaldo that showed up in the latest El Clasico chapter.

Today's Ronaldo seemed to be a split-second behind. His ability to find gaps in the defense usually separates him from everybody else. Instead, those gaps only led to disappointing misses on Saturday, and now Barcelona leads La Liga (although Madrid has a game in hand).

The Portugal national team icon will probably return to his extraordinary ways in Real Madrid's next game, but he needs to start coming up huge on the biggest stages more often. Even though Lionel Messi didn't score, he made his presence felt all night. The same can't be said for Ronaldo.

Whenever the two Spanish superpowers meet, the smallest things usually make a major difference. One key miss can turn the tide, just like it did on Saturday.

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