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Vilanova hails Messi after draw in Clasico

BARCELONA coach Tito Vilanova chose to focus on the brilliance of Lionel Messi rather than engage in a slanging match with Real Madrid after the teams played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in the first Clasico of the Primera Division season.

Cristiano Ronaldo started and finished the scoring at the Nou Camp, with Messi also at the double -- his second strike a stunning free-kick -- to ensure honours ended even.

"We do not know his limits," Vilanova said of the Argentina forward. "You should see how he trains every day -- that urge he has to keep getting better. I think we will never see another player like this. He is the best in the world by far." Vilanova added that Ronaldo would be "more recognised" if his career had not coincided with Messi's.

As always between the arch rivals, tensions frequently looked in danger of boiling over.

Visiting defender Pepe accused Andres Iniesta of "doing theatre" in a bid to win a second-half penalty and Madrid coach Jose Mourinho -- who infamously poked a finger into the eye of Vilanova on the touchline last season when he was Pep Guardiola's assistant -- claimed the referee made "one mistake at a certain moment".

"He said he does not want to discuss referees, yet he has," Vilanova said of his opposite number. "If you talk about referees you should talk about all actions, not a few in particular."

On Pepe's claims of simulation against Iniesta, Vilanova quipped: "We should make a video of all his fouls and actions."

Vilanova's side headed into the game eight points clear of the champions. The result allowed Atletico Madrid to join Barca at the summit of La Liga thanks to their 2-1 home win over Malaga in the late kick-off, but Vilanova said: "If at the beginning of the season we were told that we would be eight points ahead (of Madrid) at this stage we would have taken that."

Both sides had decent penalty shouts turned down. "The referee is good, but made one mistake at a certain moment," Mourinho said. "It can happen to anyone. I will not mention the penalty." The Portuguese added: "It was a great game that either team could have won."


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