Not every match can be a Lionel Messi masterpiece, and in a match against an opponent that has the ability to make life very hard for him while still gain some control in the midfield, the world’s best player didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to himself be felt.
When Barcelona have trouble combing their way out of the forest of midfielder, Messi usually drops down to help with the ball movement. As most teams attach a player or two to Messi, it is often a reason for the defense to be drawn away from goal, while players on the wings, like Pedro, Dani Alves and Jordi Alba suddenly find much more room to operate in.
Barcelona did have those chances in the 1-1 draw with Real Madrid, but not enough of them. You can’t expect Messi to always thrive when there wasn’t a single moment without two players focused on him, and sometimes 3, 4 and 5. And still, you sense that fear in defenders whenever he gets the ball. He did manage twice, a bit later in the game, when he began getting a little bit more involved as Barcelona enjoyed their better midfield moments, to create panic. First it was through his mazy running between defenders, halted by a Carvalho hand ball which wasn’t whistled and ended with a timely Raphael Varane slide. Later on it was the famous play by Messi, as he pulls to the left and runs in an arch towards the goal.
Barcelona had their moments for others players; mostly for other players. Quick thinking by Pedro on the counter attack put him in front of goal with the opportunity to seal the game at 2-0, but he pulled off an incredible miss in the one on one with Diego Lopez, pulling too much to the right and destroying the angle for him, sending the shot centimeters wide of the post. Some clever breaking of the offside trap gave Jordi Alba a brilliant chance in the first half that was squandered.
It always felt like if Barcelona push their foot on the pedal a little harder, they’d draw blood. But they played a slightly cautious match. Every time Real Madrid started running amok, Xavi and Andres Iniesta calmed everything down, but with less of a purpose to try and finish the game off. Dani Alves was a bit more retreated in his approach, and so was Jordi Alba. When Callejon left the pitch in the second half, it was Alba’s chance to break on the left. It seemed that Barcelona were concerned about not leaving too many gaps in their defense.
All in all, a feeling of a missed chance to close the tie early in my opinion. Barcelona weren’t that much better than Real Madrid; a draw was the deserved result, but they looked closer to scoring the second goal, at least seemed to need less work to reach that chance. Sometimes, a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu is a good result, but when you look at the finer details, not to mention the referee mistakes, you realize it should have gone a bit differently.