Spanish La Liga Roundup, Sep. 19

BY foxsports • September 19, 2010

Lionel Messi was stretchered off with what looked like a serious ankle injury after the Argentina forward and Gerard Pique scored in Barcelona's 2-1 victory at Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Messi celebrated the 10th anniversary of his arrival to Barcelona with a 13th-minute opener before Raul Garcia headed home an equalizer for the hosts in the 25th.

Pique calmly controlled a corner kick inside the Atletico area to fire home the 33rd minute winner, but Barcelona's victory was marred when World Player of the Year Messi exited on a stretcher during stoppage time.

Messi was diagnosed with a strained right ankle, while Atletico finished with 10 players after Tomas Ujfalusi was sent off for tripping the Argentina forward in full flight.

"I think the images speak for themselves," coach Pep Guardiola said. "The doctors will tell us how he is (on Monday). He's sad, red-eyed. But these things happen. Now we can only wait on the prognosis and help him recover."

The Spanish champion won at the Vicente Calderon stadium for the first time since the 2006-'07 season and bounced back from its first Spanish league defeat.

Earlier, Juanma Mata and Pablo Hernandez scored first-half goals as Valencia beat Hercules 2-1 to maintain its perfect start and go top of the league with nine points.

Spain forward Mata opened after two minutes before Hernandez made it 2-0 from a free kick in the 24th minute.

Former France striker David Trezeguet scored his first goal for Hercules, which was coming off a 2-0 victory over Barcelona, with a penalty before halftime.

Real Madrid, which beat Real Sociedad 2-1 on Saturday, is second alongside Sevilla with seven points while Barcelona, Atletico, Espanyol and Villarreal have six points.

Sevilla rallied from Jose Rondon's 14th-minute opener with Alejandro Alfaro equalizing six minutes later before Martin Caceres scored the winner in the 47th minute at La Rosaleda stadium.

Also, Nilmar scored two first-half goals to lead Villarreal to a 2-1 win at Levante, which pulled one back through Felipe Caicedo in stoppage time.

Henrique and Ariel Nahuelpan scored second half goals as Racing Santander beat Zaragoza 2-0.

Barcelona showed the surprise defeat to promoted Hercules was forgotten as it arrived in the Spanish capital on the heels of a 5-1 Champions League win over Panathinaikos.

But Messi's injury could reverse what was starting to shape up a good run.

"You can't do anything about it," Pique said. "You just try to keep your head up and stay positive going forward into the next games."

While Atletico kept Barcelona from settling into its flowing passing game with early pressure, the visitor struck first.

David Villa broke free on goal against the run of play and beat goalkeeper David De Gea, but his shot bounced off the post and fell to Pedro Rodriguez, who slipped to Messi to score with a left-footed shot. The Argentina forward, who joined Barcelona at 13, notched his second league goal and seventh of the campaign.

Barcelona mostly controlled the play until Atletico equalized after Sergio Aguero and Simao Sabrosa combined for a chance that provided the corner kick for Garcia's equalizer.

Atletico appealed for a handball as Forlan's shot from outside the area was blocked in the 32nd, with Messi racing all the way to the other end to be foiled.

Pique showed composure to chest down a corner for his goal, but Barcelona's backline looked vulnerable on set pieces as 'keeper Victor Valdes snatched Ujfalusi's header from a corner out of the air in the 41st.

Xavi put Villa through before halftime but the Spain striker over-stretched his pass to Pedro in front of the open goal.

De Gea jumped to block Xavi's hard shot moments before Aguero, who had been an injury doubt before kickoff, was replaced by Diego Costa in the 52nd.

The Catalans maintained better opportunities after the restart but De Gea was to strong as he stopped Villa's angled shot in the 69th. Villa then sent a clear chance from inside the area over goal following a mistake by Atletico defender Luis Perea four minutes later.

De Gea rushed out to block Villa again in the 77th and then stopped Messi from up close in the 86th before Valdes easily stopped Reyes' deflected chance.

"We just lacked that extra goal to make us more relaxed," Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said. "But the I'm left with a feeling we played well where we haven't recently. The image the team gave was sensational."

Also on Saturday, it was: Espanyol 1, Almeria 0; Mallorca 2, Osasuna 0; and Sporting Gijon 2, Athletic Bilbao 2.

Deportivo La Coruna plays Getafe on Monday.


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