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Messi gives Barca cause for concern

Updated: 2012-12-07 07:43
By Agence France-Presse in Barcelona ( China Daily)

 Messi gives Barca cause for concern

Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after picking up an injury while trying to score against Benfica's goalkeeper, Artur, during their Champions League Group G match at the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona on Wednesday. The injury turned out to be a left-knee bruise, though tests are still scheduled to determine the extent. Sergio Carmona / Reuters

Star striker's pursuit of a record 85 goals in a season paused due to injury

Lionel Messi was stretchered off with a knee injury as Barcelona drew 0-0 with Benfica at the Nou Camp, a result that saw Celtic go through at the expense of the Portuguese from Champions League Group G.

The club later confirmed the injury was only bruising to the left knee, but said the Argentine "is still awaiting more tests to determine the extent of the injury".

Benfica needed only to match Celtic's result against Spartak Moscow and it wasted a number of excellent chances against a weakened Barca, especially in the first half, and was to rue it as Celtic snatched a 2-1 win over Spartak Moscow.

Messi was brought on as a second-half substitute but went down clutching his knee late in the game.

The Catalan side cruised through the group stage with just one defeat, away to Celtic, in what has been a prolific start to a season in which domestically it established a new record of 13 wins from 14 games.

Fans turned up hoping to see Messi match or better Gerd Mueller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year but in the end the night finished on a sour note with the Argentine still a goal behind.

"It doesn't appear too serious as it is a knock to his knee, but he will have to have tests now to find out exactly what the situation is," coach Tito Vilanova said.

"He is calm although a little worried as you would expect for a player with an injury who is waiting to know how serious it is.

"I played him for the last 30 minutes to give him a run out and he didn't play just to break the record as if that had been the case then he would have started.

"A player can get injured at any moment, and at the end of the day we are Barcelona and we are playing in the Champions League."

Messi gives Barca cause for concern

His Benfica counterpart, Jorge Jesus, claimed his side caused more problems for Barca than any other side so far at the Nou Camp.

"This game saw something that hasn't happened this year as no other team has managed to do what Benfica did to Barca (save Real Madrid, which drew 2-2 there earlier in the La Liga season)," he said.

"Barca and Real Madrid are the best teams in the world and now considering how we played at the Camp Nou it wouldn't be wrong to say that we have a chance to win the Europa League.

"We made Barca make mistakes and we had a lot of opportunities to score.

"I wouldn't say it is a failure to not go through, although that was our objective, but we have shown that we are a really strong team."

Barca chose to rest the bulk of the regular side and took the opportunity to blood youngsters in the true spirit of the club, which takes pride in the production line from its Masia academy.

Benfica's task of toppling the Catalan giant was made more difficult by the loss of a number of important players, including Pablo Aimar, Enzo Perez and Eduardo Salvio.

(China Daily 12/07/2012 page22)

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