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Varane breathes life into Madrid

The Frenchman produced one of his best ever displays in a Madrid shirt. He made a number of decisive tackles and then headed in the equaliser to keep the tie wide open.

Varane breathes life into Madrid

Real Madrid left the Bernabéu still alive after drawing the Clásico 1-1 while Barcelona headed home with the sensation that they had missed a vital opportunity, as they had so many chances to finish off the game and secure their passage to the final of the Copa del Rey.

Cesc Fábregas's away goal could prove vital but Raphael Varane's equaliser helped Madrid regain their self-esteem and will give them huge confidence to take with them to the Camp Nou. If this game proved anything, it is that home advantage counts for little in this famous duel which never fails to inspire passion and awe.

This was not just any old Clásico, but one which threw up a new star: Varane. The 19-year-old was Madrid's hero as he rescued a match that was in Barcelona's hands and there for the taking. With Barcelona creating chance after chance the Frenchman suddenly appeared in the opposing box to head home a cross from Mesut Özil with a perfect blend of power and technique. Before that, he had got his team out of jail with three decisive tackles. Indeed it is difficult to recall a better performance from any other centre-back in a Clásico in recent memory.

The most remarkable thing about the first half was that it ended goalless. Xavi Hernández struck the crossbar with a free-kick and then saw his shot cleared off the line by the ever-present Varane, after a poor back-pass by Ricardo Carvalho had left debutant goalkeeper Diego López stranded. Madrid also had chances, the best falling to Karim Benzema, who shot wide of Pinto after José Callejón had given him the chance on a plate.

Barcelona's goal was a hammer blow to a bright Madrid, with Callejón hitting a poor pass out of defence which was intercepted by Leo Messi and directed to Fábregas, who made no mistake.

The Catalans became stronger with their goal and Pedro missed a golden chance to double the lead, somehow skewing wide with just López to beat. Fàbregas also fired over, while López saved well from Jordi Alba and Dani Alves.

Barcelona were distraught when they conceded their equaliser but Madrid had been threatening to score for some time, with Gerard Piqué heroically robbing the ball from Cristiano Ronaldo when the Portuguese was bearing down on goal. Before that, Ronaldo pushed a diving header wide of goal from inside the six yard box.

Unlike the league Clásico in October, this game was not about the battle between Messi and Cristiano, who have both had better games in this fixture. But this had little bearing on the spectacle, for this is a duel too exciting and too intense to rely on two players, even if they are the best in the world.

Messi and Cristiano will return to their best in this fixture but the Clásico will remain the same: the best sporting spectacle in the world.

Estadísticas AS.com