Lionel Messi tore a ligament in his left knee near the start of Barcelona’s costly 2-1 win over Las Palmas yesterday that provisionally lifted the defending champions to the top of the Spanish league.
The club’s all-time leading scorer asked to be substituted in the eighth minute after he had tried to return to the match following a collision with a Las Palmas defender.
Scans at a local hospital found he had torn a ligament, and the club said Messi will be sidelined for seven to eight weeks.
“This is a test and an extra motivation for this team,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “We have to accept the challenge and improve our performances because we are capable of it.”
Luis Suarez responded immediately to his coach’s call by scoring twice to help the hosts bounce back from their 4-1 loss at Celta Vigo on Wednesday.
The Uruguay striker headed in Barcelona’s first in the 25th minute before he fired in a second goal in the 54th. Neymar missed a penalty in the 66th, and Las Palmas forward Jonathan Viera scored in the 88th.
The blow to Barcelona was softened a bit when Real Madrid surrendered the league lead to their rivals after they failed to get a ball past Malaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni in a 0-0 draw despite playing with an extra man for the final 13 minutes.
The Camp Nou crowd of almost 75,000 went from sharing a collective sigh to an eerie silence when Messi’s early scoring chance ended with him writhing on pitch.
Messi used an expert touch to control a long ball and streak down the right side of the area, where Diego Bigas collided with the star forward, sending Messi to the turf. Play was stopped for team doctors to check on Messi. He then went back to test his leg but eventually asked to be replaced by Munir El Haddadi.
“The worst news is the injury to our best man,” Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets said.
“He asked to be changed because something was wrong, he doesn’t like not to play. I hope we gets better soon.”
Suarez eased some of the jitters among Barcelona’s faithful when he jumped above two defenders to head in Sergi Roberto’s cross from the right corner.
Las Palmas mustered a pair of counter-attacks before half time, but Suarez got the winner when he converted a pass from El Haddadi.
Suarez set up Neymar for another goal when Las Palmas defender Antolin Alcaraz handled his lofted ball in the area, only for the Brazil striker to fire his spot kick over the bar.
Viera added drama to stoppage time when he scored after Javier Mascherano lost the ball and let the visitors pull one back.
In Madrid, Kameni made a series of impressive saves, but none was better than the one hand he managed to get in the patch of Cristiano Ronaldo’s blistering shot in the 48th.
Madrid keeper Keylor Navas was forced into action seconds later when he repelled Malaga’s most dangerous effort through Juan Carlos Perez’s free kick.
Isco was inches away from Madrid’s winner when he volleyed a rebound of another Kameni stop through the goalkeeper’s arms, only for Weligton to clear the ball off the line in the 76th.
Malaga’s Nordin Amrabat earned a direct red card a minute later when he elbowed Marcelo in the face.
Ronaldo was left shaking his head in disbelief when he headed over the bar from inside the six-yard box in injury time. He followed that by kicking the post after another miss.
Lewandowski amongst the goals for victorious Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski came to the rescue once again when he scored the first two goals in their 3-0 victory over Mainz on Saturday to stretch their lead at the top to five points with their seventh win in seven league games.
The champions were struggling against their disciplined opponents until the Poland captain rose high to head in for the lead in the 51st minute, thus becoming the fastest foreign player to reach the 100 Bundesliga goal mark by achieving the feat in his 168th match.
Lewandowski, who found the net five times against VfL Wolfsburg in the midweek game, scored again in the 63rd minute. He rounded keeper Loris Karius for his 10th goal in seven matches, a mark only achieved in the past by Gerd Mueller in the 1968/69 season and the 1977/78 season.
Winger Kingsley Coman added another five minutes later as Mainz buckled and Bayern stretched their stellar start to the season.
The Bavarians, who host Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League next week, are top of the table on a maximum 21 points with Borussia Dortmund, in action against Darmstadt 98 on Sunday, on 16 in second place.
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