| Barcelona’s Gaizka Mendieta (left) vies for the ball with Real Madrid’s Roberto Carlos in Barcelona Saturday
Madrid: Real Madrid held on for a goalless draw at Barcelona on Saturday in a fast and furious Spanish league derby that was held up in the second half after Luis Figo was pelted with objects from the crowd.
Real, missing Ronaldo because of a bout of flu and Zinedine Zidane with a bad back, found themselves on the rack as the match moved towards the final 20 minutes, with Barcelona creating repeated chances.
The home side lost rhythm, though, when the game was halted with Figo — playing his second match at the Nou Camp since his bitterly-felt $56 million transfer to Real two years ago — being bombarded with plastic bottles, amongst other items.
Barca, who had a goal disallowed early in the second half, took time to get going again after the restart and although they came close to a winner several times Real held firm. Real were thus unable to claim their first league win at Barcelona since 1983, but the damage in terms of their league position was limited thanks to results elsewhere.
Leaders Real Sociedad were also held to a goalless draw at Rayo Vallecano, while Deportivo Coruna could only draw 1-1 at Sevilla. After 11 games, Sociedad lead the standings with 23 points, two clear of Real Mallorca in second. Valencia are third on 18, ahead of Real Madrid and Deportivo on goal difference.
Barcelona, in eighth place two points further back, were left to rue a missed chance to get back into the title-reckoning. “We just needed a goal,” playmaker Xavi lamented. “We did everything else we needed to. We’re left with a bittersweet taste because I think we deserved to win.”
Real started the game well, despite their high-profile absentees, and Roberto Carlos flashed a shot wide early on in what seemed like a statement of intent.
Patrick Kluivert forced Iker Casillas to tip over a flicked header but Barca didn’t really get going until the first half drew to a close, with Gaizka Mendieta forcing another good stop from the Real goalkeeper.
The Catalans started to dominate in the second half and Kluivert had the ball in the net after 48 minutes only to see the referee’s assistant put up the flag for a dubious off-side. Mendieta was just wide with a header a couple of minutes later as Barcelona upped the pressure.
In the 54th minute Phillip Cocu missed a great chance, as he slipped in unmarked at the far post to meet a free-kick from the right only to blast over. Real were struggling to stay in the game but a section of Barca fans then did their arch-rivals a favour.
Ronaldo misses out
The crowd had clearly been looking forward to renewing their acquaintance with two Nou Camp old boys in Figo and Ronaldo. In the end Ronaldo, who scored 34 league goals in his single season at Barca, was forced to miss the game because of a bout of flu.
That left Figo to bear the brunt of the crowd’s wrath and that spilled over in the second half as objects were rained down on the Portugal forward as he prepared to take a corner on the left.
He just about managed to take that kick, forcing Barca goalkeeper Roberto Bonano to tip the ball over the bar and concede another corner on the opposite side.
As further objects were hurled, referee Luis Medina Cantalejo took the players from the field. That gave Real’s tired team a breather for several minutes and it took Barcelona a while to re-establish their control.
Substitute Marc Overmars was just wide with a run and shot before a 30-metre free-kick from Frank de Boer came within a whisker of opening the scoring.
In the end, Michel Salgado was forced into a desperate goalline clearance from a De Boer header to ensure a point that keeps Barcelona at arm’s length. “We created chances in what was an excellent first half,” Real coach Vicente del Bosque said. “Barcelona attacked more in the second half but this was a good performance.”