Barcelona's Lionel Messi left the field on a stretcher with sprained ankle ligaments after an incident that saw Tomas Ujfalusi dismissed, to put a dampener on the Spanish champions' 2-1 victory at Atlético Madrid. Messi had opened the scoring before Gerard Piqué struck the winner to put Barcelona's title challenge back on track.
After the match the Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola, said that Messi had not fractured his ankle, as had been feared. Barcelona said in a statement on their website that the Messi had suffered ligament damage to his right ankle but there was no evidence of a broken bone and further tests would be conducted tomorrow.
"We are very pleased with the win but sad about the injury to Leo [Messi]," Guardiola said. "In principle, a fracture is ruled out, which was what was worrying us. Tomorrow we'll do some tests and they'll tell us how he is."
Guardiola's side crashed to a shock 2-0 defeat at home to promoted Hércules last weekend but spoiled Atlético's perfect start to the season with a much more accomplished performance at a typically boisterous Calderón stadium.
Messi poked Barca ahead in the 13th minute, seconds after a David Villa shot had ricocheted back off a post, before the Atlético midfielder Raul Garcia lifted the crowd with a towering header past Victor Valdes in the 25th. Piqué put Barça back in front just after the half hour, chesting down a corner a the back post before lashing home from a tight angle.
The Atlético goalkeeper David De Gea had kept the home side in the match with smart saves from Xavi and Pedro at the start of the second period and Villa and Messi both missed chances to make the game safe. Villa blasted over with the goal at his mercy and Messi fired straight at De Gea when through late on.
The Atlético fans gave the Barça midfielder Andrés Iniesta, scorer of the winning goal for Spain in July's World Cup final, a rousing ovation when he was replaced in added time.
However, Barça's victory was soured shortly after, when Messi was taken off in some pain. The world player of the year clashed with Ujfalusi and the Czech defender, was was already on a yellow, was shown a straight red card. Messi then clutched his face with both hands as he was carried around the touchline.