Messi injured as Barca beat Atletico
Barcelona put their poor recent record at the Vicente Calderon behind them to end Atletico Madrid's 100% start to the Primera Division season - but there was an injury scare for Lionel Messi.
Barça 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 Barça will be keeping their fingers crossed the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year has not suffered a serious injury. The result means Atletico, having started the season superbly with a UEFA Super Cup win over Inter Milan and back-to-back league victories, have now lost twice in four days following Thursday's UEFA Europa League defeat against Aris.
For Barça though it was another impressive performance following their 5-1 midweek UEFA Champions League mauling of Panathinaikos, and gets them back on track in La Liga after their shock 2-0 home defeat to Hercules last weekend.
This fixture has a habit of producing high-scoring thrillers, 39 goals having been scored in the last seven league meetings, and it looked set to be similar story this time with three goals in the opening 33 minutes. However, there were no more additions to the scoreline after that, although the main reason for that was Atletico goalkeeper David De Gea.
It took the Catalan giants only 12 minutes to break through as Messi, who had a fantastic game against Panathinaikos when he scored twice and set up two more, slotted home. David Villa just failed to capitalise on being put through by Pedro Rodriguez as his shot came back off the far post, but Barca regained possession and Pedro picked out the run of Messi, who slipped a first time shot past De Gea.
That was the ideal start for Barça but their advantage lasted only 12 minutes before Atletico equalised completely out of the blue. The home side had barely threatened as an attacking force but they got back on level terms when Garcia beat Victor Valdes to Simao Sabrosa's corner to glance a header into the net. That was an unexpected setback for the visitors but they need not have worried as they were back in front by the 32nd minute thanks to Pique.
Messi's corner, which the Argentinian won following a fine run, reached Pique at the far post and the giant centre-back chested the ball down before drilling home a low shot from six yards out. Dominant Barça looked set to a third goal just before the break but Villa's cross was just in front of the unmarked Pedro.
Atletico, who started with Sergio Aguero up front after he proved his fitness following injury, began the second half in determined fashion. However, they were indebted to young goalkeeper De Gea for keeping them in the match as he made two brilliant saves in quick succession to deny Xavi and Pedro.
Villa then missed a gilt-edged chance to put Barça in total control in the 72nd minute when, with only De Gea to beat, he blazed over left-footed. Sixty seconds later Villa tried his luck again from 25 yards out, and this time it needed a wonderful one-handed save from 19-year-old De Gea to deny the Spain striker.
The highly-rated De Gea was proving a pillar of strength at the back for Atletico and he again thwarted Villa in the 78th minute after the former Valencia man had been put through by Xavi. Atletico pushed men forward late on but they could find no way through the Barça backline and the visitors came close again when Messi was denied when one-on-one with De Gea.
The evening ended on a sour note for Barca with Messi being carried off following Ujfalusi's challenge - and Pep Guardiola now faces a nervy wait to discover the extent of the Argentinian's injury.