It's been a wildly entertaining and eventful half of football at the Camp Nou, with goals for both sides and an injury-related substitution. The game's two biggest stars, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, have each netted a goal to lock Real Madrid and Barcelona in a 1-1 draw after 45 minutes of play.
Barcelona are without both Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, and were expected to start Alex Song in defense. Instead, they've stuck fullback Adriano in next to Javier Mascherano. He was tested frequently in the early going, and though he's looked a tad shaky at times, he has mostly filled the role well.
Madrid had the game's first big chance after 13 minutes, and Karim Benzema committed the first of what would be two very bad misses in the first half. Ronaldo set him up with a cross to the back post and he had time to control, but instead opted to hit a half-volley wide of the far post.
The next 10 minutes were a bit wild, and featured a lot of face time for Madrid's central defenders on both ends of the pitch. Pepe got a bit bailed out of an awful mis-control in his own half when Cesc Fabregas caught him, causing him to go down in pain. If Fabregas hadn't fouled, he would have had a clear breakaway.
Madrid's second big chance came after 19 minutes on a set piece, through Sergio Ramos. He made a brilliant run from deep and was completely unmarked, but made poor contact with his free header. Los Blancos' next surge forward came on a great counter which featured Pepe on a surprising run forward, but Mascherano did well to cut out the long ball up to the defender.
One minute after that run, Madrid found a deserved goal. Ronaldo was the scorer, capitalizing on a nifty bit of play by Benzema. With his back to goal, the Madrid center forward turned and played Ronaldo through on goal. Daniel Alves was slow to react and Ronaldo stepped into a composed finish. Two minutes later, Madrid nearly doubled their lead when Angel di Maria supplied Benzema with a chance on a silver platter, but he was caught a bit off balance and his stretching effort hit the post.
Daniel Alves picked up a knock in the 27th minute, and was forced out of the match. His replacement, Martin Montoya, played well for the rest of the half, but there's certainly a drop-off in attacking ability on Barcelona's right flank at the moment. He's played disciplined, which might actually be a slightly welcome change for Tito Vilanova.
A bit of good fortune led to Barcelona's equalizer three minutes later. Messi was the one who capitalized, though the only skill his goal required was some good timing. Pedro created the chance with a cross into the box, which was poorly dealt with. Pepe over-committed himself and made a terrible clearance that went behind him and fell to Messi at the center of the box. He could hardly believe his luck and poked the ball past Iker Casillas.
The final 15 minutes of the half were much more calm than the first 30, with both teams slowing down the pace a bit. Neither side had more than a half chance for the rest of the half and both looked like they were satisfied heading to halftime tied up at 1-1.