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30 Nov 2010

Lionel Messi's superb display handed Real Madrid their first competitive defeat of the season and sent Barcelona top of the table after a 5-0 victory.

After Messi's chip hit the post, Xavi gave Barca the lead with a lob after the ball deflected into his path.

Barca were soon two goals ahead when Pedro poked in a David Villa cross.

Two Messi passes set up Villa for the third and fourth goals, with Jeffran's goal rubbing salt into Real's wounds, before Sergio Ramos was sent off.

The match was billed as much as a contest between the world's two greatest players - Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo - as between these two fierce Spanish rivals.

But the Argentine's display was so staggeringly good that Real's Ronaldo was reduced to a bit part player in the Nou Camp.

Messi was the target of some cynical Real tactics, notably when he was on the receiving end of a Ricardo Carvalho elbow, but those two passes to Villa for his goals were the perfect riposte to the intimidation he had to endure.

Carvalho escaped punishment for that piece of skullduggery and the Real defender was also lucky not to be sent off for deliberate handball in the second half.

After Barca's fourth goal the Nou Camp were treated to an exhibition of football that must have bordered on the humiliating for their rivals as Pep Guardiola's side barely allowed Real to touch the ball, with Sergi Busquets almost scoring from the half-way line at one point.

Ramos's stoppage-time dismissal - for a scything tackle on Messi was the final ignominy for Real and coach Jose Mourinho, who suffered his heaviest defeat as a coach.

Not surprisingly it was Messi who was the first player to stamp his mark on the game.

After the Argentine won a corner Real were unable to clear the ball and from an acute angle the Barcelona forward clipped the post with the most of delicate of chips with Casillas well beaten.

If Casillas survived that scare there was to be no reprieve on 10 minutes for the Real goalkeeper.

Andres Iniesta motored his way towards the Real box before slipping a pass towards his midfielder partner Xavi. Marcelo almost cut out the ball but the pass was hit with such precision and force that it deflected off the Brazilian into the path of Xavi who cleverly lobbed Casillas.

Real's response was immediate with Ronaldo marauding his way down the right and then Angel Di Maria testing Barca keeper Victor Valdes with a rising shot.

Pulling Real out of position with a mixture of short and long passing and almost telepathic combinations, Barca extended their lead on 18 minutes.

Xavi was the architect this time, switching the ball from right to left with a raking, diagonal pass to Villa.

The Spain forward worked his way to the byeline and Casillas was unable to cut out Villa's cross, allowing Pedro a simple tap-in.

Amid all the drama there was pantomime as well when Ronaldo pushed Pep Guardiola on the touchline after the Barca coach throw the ball away rather than giving it directly to the Real striker.

Just past the half-hour a trademark Ronaldo free-kick rocketed through a splintering Barca wall but also past the post.

Real coach Mourinho attempted to bolster his side's midfield for the second half by bringing on Lassana Diarra for Mesut Ozil.

But Messi was seemingly impervious to anything Real tried to do to stop him as he went on a dazzling run that resulted in Villa having a shot on goal.

Moments later a sublime Messi pass released Xavi, who was only able to find the side netting.

But a third piece of Messi magic in that devastating Barca blitz at the start of the second half set up Villa's first goal.

The Argentine threaded the ball into the path of Villa, who turned quickly to fire a shot past Casillas.

You could have forgiven Messi for taking a breather but moments later he was at it again, dropping his shoulder to go past two Real defenders before picking out Villa, who expertly guided the ball past Casillas with the outside of his right foot.

In stoppage time Bojan's cross was converted by Jeffren before Ramos's dismissal.

The win ensured Barcelona leapfrogged their rivals at the top of the table as the Catalan side went two points clear.

Since succeeding Frank Rijkaard as Barcelona coach, Guardiola has now won all five El Clasico encounters, though for his Real counterpart Mourinho it was a humbling return to the club where he once worked as a translator.


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