What do Real need after Clasico heartbreak?

But proving more Lionheart Messi than Lionel, ten minutes later the number 10 netted to equalise after Casemeiro had given Real Madrid the lead.

Capello spoke about how Messi is targetted when he visits the Santiago Bernabeu: "Every time there's a Clasico at the Bernabeu, the Madrid players try to injure Messi".

However, Real Madrid still have a crucial game in hand where they can again surge to the top of the points table.

Ivan Rakitic was also on target for Barcelona, while Casemiro and James Rodriguez - the Colombian having equalised in the 85th minute - scored for hosts Real, who had captain Sergio Ramos sent off.

However, fittingly, Messi had the final say with a brilliant finish deep into stoppage time to lift Barcelona's hopes of a third straight La Liga title.

Madrid could be boosted by the return of Gareth Bale from injury, but the fact the Welshman may not be risked is a further sign that Real have far more room for error.

"He is the best player for me in history and I have seen a lot of football", said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. The most marked man in all of football, and for good reason, displaying his uncanny ability to find space.

Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta echoed the sentiments of Suarez, adding: "The great thing about Leo is that he never stops surprising you". For us, it's an honour to play with him. After equalizing five minutes later, Messi also helped set up Barcelona's go-ahead goal by Rakitic in the 73rd, a powerful left-footed shot from outside the area. "He makes the difference".

Cristiano Ronaldo was understandably furious when Lionel Messi scored the last minute victor in Sunday's El Clasico. Until last night, he had not scored since a hat-trick six Clasicos ago won it for Barcelona 4-3 after two comebacks. Andre Gomes went with him, and so did Jordi Alba.

While it appears the clash was unintentional, it left Messi crumpled on the floor, with him spitting out blood from the mouth.

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez led the tributes for Messi, telling the club's website: "It's time to enjoy beating a direct opponent, Madrid".

Messi's celebration, parading his shirt, sparked a fierce reaction from many Madrid fans on the stands behind the goal, where only a few people wearing Barcelona colors could be seen.

"Leo Messi's 500th goal had to be a special moment, as is he".

  • Julie Sanders