Real Madrid's 3-1 Copa Del Rey dismantling of Barcelona stunned the Camp Nou. Marching into the cup final with a comfortable 4-2 aggregate win, Jose Mourinho's men overcame any sense of pre-match pressure with a dazzling display.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dueled in front of the world once more—but as summarised by the lopsided scoreline, only one superstar dealt knockout blows.
Neither player scored in the semi-final first leg at the Bernabeu. As ever, both Spanish giants went into this match expecting to emerge victorious ahead of Saturday's league rerun in Madrid. How did Messi and Ronaldo compare on the night? Let's take a look.
Breaking down Lionel Messi's performance
Despite scoring in 15 consecutive La Liga games, Messi has struggled in his last two cup outings (via ESPN). While he provided an assist for Cesc Fabregas in the opening tie with Madrid, the Argentinian maestro was unable to significantly influence Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg defeat against Milan.
The same must be said for his latest performance against Mourinho's men. Messi started the game with intent and dragged a shot wide of Diego Lopez' post in the early stages. Little did we know, this opportunity would represent his best chance of getting on the scoresheet in an encounter that was dominated by the visitors.
Madrid's midfield packed Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil into a tightly congested middle. Barcelona were afforded little room to exercise their short passing game, making progress in offensive areas extremely rare.
A reply was expected once Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the quarter of an hour mark. Messi received the ball deep into Madrid's half and failed to thread a routine pass into the path of Andres Iniesta. Although he had space to pick out an accurate ball, white shirts crowded the 25-year-old out of laying on a certain goal.
The Camp Nou was given little to cheer about all night, but this could have been extremely different. Shortly after the opening goal, Messi had a fantastic chance to test Lopez from a free kick just outside the box.
He curled his effort beneath a leaping wall and seemingly towards the bottom corner of Madrid's goal. Unfortunately for the home fans, the net rippled as Messi's effort whizzed past the post and back towards the pitch.
Into the second half, he began to cut a forlorn figure. On 53 minutes, Messi was slightly late with a challenge on Sergio Ramos.
He struggled to find any space in threatening areas throughout the night. This was highlighted on 71 minutes when Messi broke into Madrid's box. Xabi Alonso easily whipped the ball away from a player that racked up one of his least effective performances ever.
Statistically speaking, Messi had a dire game by his usual standards. He completed 75 per cent of his passes; the lowest Barcelona success rate of the night. Barcelona caretaker boss Jordi Roura would have also been surprised at Messi's failure to get a shot on target. It seems pigs do fly.
Breaking down Cristiano Ronaldo's performance
Quite remarkably, Ronaldo's displays against Barcelona have become routinely wonderful. The former Manchester United man stole the limelight in a performance that will have their rivals worried for the upcoming La Liga Clasico.
Ronaldo took 12 minutes to make an impression. He latched on to a fine pass and found himself one-on-one with a struggling Gerard Pique. A couple of steps later, the Spanish international lunged in and sent the greasy-haired assassin tumbling for a penalty kick.
Jose Manuel Pinto—who loves to outfox opposition spot-kick takers—dived the wrong way. Ronaldo hit the corner and sauntered off in typically cool fashion.
The Portuguese international tried his luck with a couple of free kicks and long shots before notching a second just before the hour.
A stunning counter saw Angel Di Maria shimmy his way beyond the creaking legs of Carles Puyol before blasting a shot at Pinto. As luck would have it, Ronaldo received the rebound and tucked the ball past Jordi Alba to make it 2-0 on the night.
He nearly stole the match ball with 10 minutes left. Jose Callejon's terrific pass caught Puyol out once more, but Ronaldo could only shoot into the legs of Pinto.
A closer look at the stats also shows how comfortable Madrid's match winner was on the night. Ronaldo hit the target with five of his nine attempts. He was dispossessed just once, drawing in three fouls and successfully dribbling around opponents three times.
The performances of Messi and Ronaldo should be judged alongside that of their teammates. Real Madrid set up with the plan of suffocating Barcelona's star out of the game. It worked magnificently, as Messi and his colleagues failed to breach the Madrid defence until injury time.
Ronaldo was afforded far more space. He did brilliantly to exploit that and deservedly sent his team towards the Copa Del Rey summit. Barcelona were still hurting from the loss to Milan and will need to reassess their form with haste. If Messi and the Catalan giants can't do so, the Camp Nou will only house one trophy this season.
How do you rate the performances of Messi and Ronaldo in the Copa Del Rey semi-final clash? Let me know in the comments section and be sure to follow me on Twitter:
All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!