Barcelona cleared the final major hurdle in their quest to become the first La Liga side to finish the league campaign in unbeaten fashion, drawing UEFA Champions League finalists Real Madrid, 2-2, in the final El Clasico of the 2017-18 season on Sunday… barely.
It was a dream start for Ernesto Valverde’s side, which entered Sunday’s showdown unbeaten through the first 35 games of the league season (42 straight dating back to last season), courtesy of Luis Suarez’s 10th-minute opener. Sergi Roberto — more on him in a moment — delivered the perfect cross to the back post and Suarez hammered his first-time finish past Keylor Navas (WATCH HERE).
The lead lasted just five minutes, though, as Cristian Ronaldo started — and finished — a free-flowing piece of play into Barca’s penalty area (WATCH HERE). Ronaldo would be forced off at halftime, due to what the club called a minor ankle sprain. He is expected to be fully fit and available for the May 26 UCL final against Liverpool.
Back to Roberto, though, who was goaded, by Marcelo — who else? — into a moment of madness seconds before halftime. After an instance of innocuous shoulder-to-shoulder contact, it was Roberto who gave Marcelo a slap to the face — or, at the very least, appeared to intend to do so — on the edge of the penalty area. Even without the benefit of video review (VAR will arrive in La Liga next season), it was spotted by the referee and Roberto was off.
Down a man, Lionel Messi scored a typically brilliant goal seven minutes into the second half, weaving past three defenders atop the penalty area before uncorking a pinpoint curler through traffic and just inside Navas’s right-hand post.
The lead lasted 20 minutes, until Gareth Bale drew Los Blancos level once again with a stunning, curling, first-time streak from just outside the box. The ball forward from Marco Asensio hit the Welshman in stride, and Bale put it where no goalkeeper in the world could get it.
Barca’s remaining schedule reads as follows: vs. Villarreal (6th place), at Levante (17th), and vs. Real Sociedad (11th).