CHAOS AS BARCA DENIED BY 'OFFSIDE' GOAL
By Nic Evans
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Raul also grabbed a brace for Real but the main talking point will be the events in the 92nd minute, when Rivaldo found himself with room and shot goalwards.
The ball deflected off Ivan Helguera's foot and past Iker Casillas for what seemed the winning goal, however, Real's nine point lead over the Cataluynians at the top of La Liga was spared when the assistant referee flagged for offside.
Although three Barca players were offside, they appeared not to be interfering with play and the game finished with chaotic scenes as the visiting substitutes surrounded the assistant referee - Marc Overmars and Josep Guardiola in particular were incensed by the decision.
In a game that swung from side to side with the frequency of a pendulum, it was Real that took control of the tie early on, but Barca's strong finish ensured that a draw was the fairest of results.
After marching onto the pitch to a militaristic tune extolling the virtues of Madrid, Real marched into the lead in just the seventh minute.
A long-range effort from Roberto Carlos was mishit but Raul, following the ball in took advantage of defensive indifference to poke the ball through the legs of the on-rushing Manuel Reina.
The first minute had set the stall out for the game with Rivaldo firing a speculative 35 yard drive over the bar and then being decked by a crunching challenge by Luis Figo.
Barca may feel they should have already been a goal up as Overmars escaped down the left and his cross was met by Patrick Kluivert who saw his flicked header go just past the post.
Despite taking the lead, Real almost handed Barca, a side lacking all their central defenders, an equaliser within 60 seconds as Aitor Karanka went to head the ball back to Casillas who had come out to collect it.
The ball was diverted past Casillas but Karanka held off Kluivert and the ball was cleared.
In a physical contest it was not surprising that Ivan Helguera, who England complained about throughout their 3-0 win over Spain mid-week, was the first into the referee's book, after a high challenge on Rivaldo.
Steve McManaman almost celebrated his return to the side, at the expense of Santiago Solari with a goal as Figo's brilliance on the right and flighted cut-back gave the former Liverpool star a chance, however, he scuffed his shot wide.
Overmars saw plenty of room in the first half and he seemed close to bursting into the box in the 26th minute before he was dragged back by Claude Makelele, who was booked for his troubles.
As the first-half wore on it seemed that Barca were coming more into the game and Rivaldo made it 1-1 in the 36th minute when a delightful passing movement involving Kluivert and Luis Enrique set up the Brazilian and he rounded Casillas before slotting home.
This stung Real back into action and Helguera advanced down the left to pull the ball back from the byline for McManaman, his shot bounced off Reina and off the post, allowing Raul to follow up and poke it into the empty net, under a minute after Barca had equalised.
Real should have gone 3-1 up when Figo's trickery on the left and low cross should have been side-footed by Fernando Morientes, but the striker who only lasted 55 minutes, opted for a diving header and it flew wide.
However, it was Casillas who was beginning to get more work and he kept his side in the lead, as on the stroke of half-time he flew to his left to palm Kluivert's header, which seemed destined for the top corner, over the bar, with an acrobatic save.
The second half could not hope to match the first in terms of quality of play and as Barca pressed forward, so the chances started to dry up as Real withdrew into themselves.
Casillas kept up his performance with a brilliant flying save from Guardiola, whose strike rate of five goals in a decade did not make him stand out as a possible scorer in this fixture.
Eventually Barca's pressure told with Rivaldo's 70th minute equaliser as he dummied to pass before firing a shot goalwards which must have gone through four players, Casillas seeing the ball fly inside his post, too late for him to do anything about it.
Realising that three points was their only realistic chance of contending for the title, Barcelona piled on the pressure in the dying moments and believed they had their reward through Rivaldo, only to be denied by the officials.