The classic ends in a thriller

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dueled each other to an entertaining stalemate on Sunday, with both superstars scoring twice as Barcelona drew 2-2 with Real Madrid to keep an eight-point lead over its archrival intact. The result ended Barcelona's perfect start to the league campaign as it dropped points for the first time in seven games, but provided yet another memorable chapter in the rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo, the two biggest names in the sport.

"It should be prohibited to say which is the best in the world,'' Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said. "They are both from another planet.''

Ronaldo put Madrid ahead at Camp Nou stadium in the 23rd from a pass by Karim Benzema to extend his scoring streak in "clasico'' matches to six. Then it was Messi's turn, as he took advantage of a defensive slip to level for Barcelona in the 31st, before adding a second goal in the 61st with a perfect free kick from almost 25 yards out.

But as Barcelona looked to seal the result, Mesut Oezil unlocked Barcelona's makeshift defensive line to set up Ronaldo to respond five minutes later and split the points.

It was, perhaps, a fitting end to the latest head-to-head duel between arguably the two best players in the world, who for the last two seasons have engaged in a two-way scoring race unlike anything the Spanish league has seen before.

Messi and Ronaldo are the leading candidates for the world player of the year award, and both showed they more than deserved it with standout performances on Sunday night.

Ronaldo added to his pair of hat tricks from the previous week, while Messi recorded his 17th career goal against Madrid, leaving him one short of equaling Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano's record. "(Messi and Ronaldo) both try to do everything they can to help their teams and score goals,'' Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova said. "If Ronaldo hadn't coincided with Messi, perhaps he would get even more recognition.''

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