Messi injury blow for Barcelona

BARCELONA star Lionel Messi is set to spend up to three weeks on the sidelines with an ankle sprain.

The Catalans put their poor recent record at the Vicente Calderon behind them to end Atletico Madrid’s 100% start to the Primera Division season last night – but Messi’s late injury scare almost cast a shadow on the win.

Barca had lost their three previous league visits to Atletico’s home 2-1, 4-3 and 4-2 but they deservedly earned all three points on this occasion thanks to first-half goals from Messi and Gerard Pique. Atletico had managed to equalise through Raul Garcia but they can have few complaints about the result and finished the game with 10 men when defender Tomas Ujfalusi was sent off late on following a challenge on Messi.

Messi was carried off on a stretcher after that to be replaced by Bojan Krkic and Barca will be keeping their fingers crossed the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year has not suffered a serious injury.

Ten-man Valencia continued their flawless start to the new season in Spain with a 2-1 win at promoted side Hercules.

Unai Emery’s side sat joint top of the table after back-to-back victories in the opening two rounds of the Primera Division and returned to the summit thanks to a hard-fought win.

Juan Mata gave Valencia the lead after just two minutes and Pablo Hernandez added a second halfway through the first half.

Hercules, fresh from their surprise 2-0 success at the Nou Camp last weekend, hit back through a David Trezeguet penalty and looked good for at least a point after Valencia captain David Navarro was sent off just four minutes into the second half.

Nilmar was the inspiration as Villarreal sealed a second successive win in the Primera Division this evening and condemned promoted outfit Levante to a third consecutive top-flight defeat with a 2-1 victory.

The Brazilian striker scored both goals with Levante’s goal coming via Felipe Caicedo’s last-minute strike while Racing Santander beat Real Zaragoza 2-0.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s deflected goal 16 minutes from time proved decisive as Real Madrid won 2-1 away to Real Sociedad, their second victory in three games on Saturday at the start of the Primera Division season.

After a goalless first half, Argentina winger Angel Di Maria gave the visitors the lead when he cut in from the left and curled a superb shot into the far top corner.

Raul Tamudo equalised with his thigh from Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick but Ronaldo’s deflected free-kick sealed the points.

Espanyol saw off Almeria 1-0 while Real Mallorca beat Osasuna 2-0 for a first competitive win under new coach Michael Laudrup and Athletic Bilbao drew 2-2 at Sporting Gijon.

In last night’s late kick-off, Sevilla won 2-1 at Malaga.

Inter Milan came from behind to move joint-top of Italy’s Serie A with a 2-1 win at Palermo.

Josip Ilicic put the hosts in front after 28 minutes but Samuel Eto’o levelled in the 63rd minute and earned the Nerazzurri all three points in the 71st minute.

Newly-promoted Cesena joined them at the top of after Erjon Bogdani’s solitary goal saw off Lecce

Brescia ended Chievo’s 100 per cent Serie A record with a 1-0 away win while Marco Di Vaio struck twice in the second half as Bologna came from behind to earn a point in a 2-2 draw at Roma.

Juventus eased their early-season worries with an emphatic 4-0 victory over an Udinese side who slumped to a third successive Serie A defeat.

Goals from Leonardo Bonucci, Fabio Quagliarella, Claudio Marchisio and Vinzenzo Iaquinta inflicted the damage as Juventus cruised to the win.

The Turin giants had lost at Bari before drawing 3-3 against Sampdoria last weekend.

Bari, meanwhile, were held to a 0-0 draw by visiting Cagliari, Parma and Genoa drew 1-1 and on Saturday, AC Milan were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Catania. In Saturday’s other Serie A match, Lazio won 2-1 at still winless Fiorentina.

In the late game last night, Napoli became the first side to beat Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris since January 2009 by coming from behind to win 2-1.

Antonio Cassano thought he had taken Sampdoria into a share of top spot when he put them ahead with a penalty in the 78th minute, but quickfire goals from Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani earned Napoli their first win of the season.

In Germany, Mladen Petric’s late goal secured Hamburg a point in an emotion-packed 1-1 draw at city rivals St Pauli.

Fabian Boll gave the promoted side the lead in the 77th minute but Petric struck in the 88th minute to equalise and deny St Pauli’s first derby victory over Hamburg in 33 years.

Borussia Dortmund took the honours in the Westphalian derby with an impressive 3-1 win at bottom and point-less club Schalke, who finished the game with 10 men.

Nurnberg remain without a win but will be pleased to have taken a point from a 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen.

Mainz went top of the Bundesliga on Saturday with a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen.

Former England boss Steve McClaren secured his first league win for new club Wolfsburg, 2-0 over Hannover but the performance of the day was Stuttgart’s 7-0 destruction of visitors Borussia Monchengladbach, including a hat-trick for Pavel Pogrebnyak. Stuttgart had been without a point before the game.

Bayern Munich could not find a way past a stubborn Cologne defence as they fought out a 0-0 draw, while Kaiserslautern and Hoffenheim also shared the points in a 2-2 tie.


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