While Real Madrid’s players blamed the referee for their 4-3 clasico defeat to Barcelona, the press in the Spanish capital was mostly fulsome in its praise of the attacking display of the Catalan side and hat-trick hero Lionel Messi.
AS’ cover ran the headline: “Storm of football: three penalties, seven goals, a sending off and lots of emotion,” while also featuring Cristiano Ronaldo’s angry rant at referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco.
Marca’s front page said “La Liga begins” -- pointing out that Atletico Madrid are now top of the table, while saying the game had “overflowed with emotion and possibilities.”
AS editor Alfredo Relano said that it had been Barca’s Messi and Andres Iniesta, not the referee, who had decided the game.
“What a clasico! I cannot remember any better, more emotional, more intense than this one, with so much football inside,” he wrote. “Barca won with tremendous merit, thanks to Messi and Iniesta above all.”
El Pais’ match report began by stating that the pregame idea that the time had come for a new Madrid team to seal the demise of an old Barcelona side had not come to pass.
“This Barca, still an epic team, said no to the changing of the order which had been foretold for this clasico,” it read. “In Chamartin, with Messi inspired, the Azulgrana did not give in during an enormous game, an encounter for the museum, one of those which with time you will not mind putting on again and again. The best CR7 [Ronaldo] was missing, but it was a duel at the level of Messi majestic and Iniesta sublime.”
In Catalonia, Mundo Deportivo went with one word, “Delirium,” on its cover, over an image of Messi kissing the badge on his shirt after scoring.
The paper’s editor, Santi Nolla, said that both Barca and Messi had shown their rivals in Madrid exactly who was still the number one team in the country.
“They wanted to put on an ‘end of an era’ show in Madrid,” Nolla wrote. “It was all ready to proclaim, finally, after many years of swallowing it, that the replacement had arrived. But they did not count on the pride of Barca’s players, and Messi, the best player in the world, left it clear again at the Bernabeu yesterday what is the true dimension of his duel with Cristiano. There is no doubt who is number one. Games like yesterday’s confirm that.”
The controversy continued after the game -- with Spanish TV station Canal Plus highlighting what it suggested was a stamp by Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets on the head of Madrid defender Pepe during a melee following Messi’s first goal, although his intent was unclear.