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Barcelona 0 Real Madrid 0: VAR rules out Bale winner but El Clasico is briefly halted by pro-Independence protests

GARETH BALE saw his late winner for Real ruled out by VAR as violent pro-Catalan protests marred El Clasico inside and outside the Nou Camp.

Demonstrations turned ugly before they spread inside the ground, briefly halting this fizzing but goalless top-of-the table-clash when beach balls were thrown on the pitch.

Fires were set outside as flag-waving Catalans fought with baton-wielding police.

And when the match itself neared the hour mark, referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez stopped play when fans launched a pre-planned protest.

Ballons were hurled on, one saying: "Youngster, the republic needs you" while other another had the message "Sit and Talk".

The unsettled striker slid home on 73 minutes but Ferland Mendy was rightly adjudged offside in the build-up.

MESSI BRIEFLY CAME TO LIFE

Barcelona's calm start - in contrast to the Independence protests outside - soon faded as a snapshot from Real striker Karim Benzema forced Ter Stegen into a tenth minute save.

And Real soon sparked Barca into desperate defending, including two clearances from Gerard Pique in quick succession.

Spain centre-back Pique nodded Casemiro's leaping header off the line, then flung his leg to deflect Clement Lenglet's half-volley away.

But while Benzema buzzed around all along the Real front-line front-line, Bale was far quieter down the right.

Lionel Messi then finally, and dramatically, flitted into the game at the other end on the half hour.

Jordi Alba swept in a cross from the left that Thibaut Courtois flew out diving to push away, leaving Messi an instant opportunity on the edge of the box, kept out by a brilliant block from Sergio Ramos.

And with Messi now alive, he delivered the pass of the first half.

His curving ball turned a harmless position into a heartstopping one as it split the Real defence to feed Alba's perfect run.

But the Spain left-back slotted his volley wide for a second major let-off for Real.

Federico Valverde responded with a low drive gathered well by Courtois as Real returned to the high-tempo play that had bossed the early stages, with Isco lively.

Barca's main concern for the first hour was the failure to involve Antoine Griezman from his uncomfortable role on the left.

The French World Cup winner looked out of position, out of sorts and out of luck as Ernesto Valverde's men struggled to stretch Real.

VAR INTERVENES

But suddenly he dinked the ball over Dani Carvajal's sliding lunge, albeit helped by a handball that might have been penalised by VAR, and squared for Messi.

Somehow the man with the most famous left foot in the game miscued completely, enabling Real to clear.

Frenkie de Jong the burst into the area for a snaking drive pawed away by Courtois as Barca belatedly dictated play.

But when Real broke clear, at a pace rarely seen by either side all night, Bale swept home at the backpost, only for VAR to intervene with one of its more routine decisions.

Bale was soon reeling again - after a clash of heads floored both him and Real centre-back Lenglet for a couple of minutes.

And Griezmann's plight was underlined nine minutes from time when he was replaced by Barca's 17-year-old sensation Ansu Fati, becoming their youngest El Clasico player since 1941 but failing to lift the game from its tame climax.

Lionel Messi bursts through for a rare Barca opportunity before the intervalLionel Messi then finally, and dramatically, flitted into the game at the other end on the half hour.

Jordi Alba swept in a cross from the left that Thibaut Courtois flew out diving to push away, leaving Messi an instant opportunity on the edge of the box, kept out by a brilliant block from Sergio Ramos.

And with Messi now alive, he delivered the pass of the first half.

His curving ball turned a harmless position into a heartstopping one as it split the Real defence to feed Alba's perfect run.

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