Lion rules Bernabeu classic

MADRID - The battle for the World Player of the Year award had shifted to his home turf but Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo was again upstaged by Lionel Messi of Barcelona in Saturday's "El Clasico" at the Bernabeu.

MADRID - The battle for the World Player of the Year award had shifted to his home turf but Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo was again upstaged by Lionel Messi of Barcelona in Saturday's "El Clasico" at the Bernabeu.

Fresh from hitting four past Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday, World Player Messi, nicknamed Leo, netted Barca's opening goal, while the previous year's winner Ronaldo was limited to a few sprints and shots and a smattering of showy step-overs and flicks.

To add insult to injury, disgruntled fans whistled the Portuguese late in the match, suggesting they have yet to be convinced he is worth the record $126-million Real paid Manchester United for his services.

"Too much Messi for CR9," was the headline in yesterday's Madrid-based Marca sports daily, while its peer in the Catalan capital, Sport, trumpeted: "Leo makes a fool of Cristiano in the clash of the stars."

Barca's 2-0 win put the champs three points clear of their arch-rivals at the top of La Liga with seven matches left. The loss left Ronaldo and Real facing a trophy-less season after their exits from Europe and the King's Cup.

Barca, if they get through their Champions League semifinal against Inter Milan, will also have a chance to win a second successive title in May's final at the Bernabeu.

Messi, 22, whose form will be crucial to Argentina's World Cup hopes, tops La Liga with 27 goals to Portugal international Ronaldo's 18. - Reuters

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