Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina, right, celebrates after scoring a goal against Real Madrid's during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou Stadium, in Barcelona, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012.
BARCELONA, Spain — The meetings between Barcelona and Real Madrid had become less and less about football lately, dominated instead by sideshows centered on ugly accusations, red cards and infamous eye pokes.
That was until Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo combined Sunday to return one of football's greatest rivalries to its rightful place, matching each other with a pair of two-goal performances that fully lived up to their stature as the best players in the world.
The 2-2 draw didn't lack potential distractions, with Madrid defender Pepe calling Andres Iniesta a flopper, and tens of thousands of Catalan separatists calling for independence from the rest of Spain.
But Messi and Ronaldo's dazzling duel overshadowed all premature title forecasts and controversies, with the chase for the Ballon D'Or award providing the perfect backdrop