Messi gives Barcelona cause for concern
BARCELONA - Agence France-Presse
Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after picking up an injury while trying to score a goal against Benfica's goalkeeper Artur during their Champions League Group G soccer match at the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona December 5, 2012. REUTERS photo/Gustau NacarinoLionel Messi was stretchered off with a knee injury as Barcelona drew 0-0 with Benfica at the Camp Nou, a result which saw Celtic go through at the expense of the Portuguese from Champions League Group G, AFP has reported.
The club later confirmed the injury was only bruising to the left knee, but added that 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 they wasted a number of excellent chances against a weakened Barca, especially in the first half and were to rue them 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 on 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 the season where domestically they have 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," said coach Tito Vilanova.
"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." His Benfica counterpart Jorge Jesus claimed his side caused more problems for Barca than any other side so far at the Camp Nou.
"This game saw something that hasn't been happened this year as no other team has managed to do what Benfica did to Barca (save Real Madrid who 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 chances 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 such pride in the production line from their Masia academy.
Benfica's task of toppling the Catalan giants was made more difficult by the loss of a number of important players, including Pablo Aimar, Enzo Perez and Eduardo Salvio.
The Barca defence looked too flat against the pace of the Benfica forward line and Rodrigo Lima headed wide from close range from a Nolito cross.
The danger to the Barca goal increased in the run-up to half time as a Nolito pass put Lima clear down the left channel but Jose Pinto got his fingertips to the ball and deflected it onto a post.
Then Ola John cut inside Adriano Correia but Pinto again came to the rescue to parry his shot from 10 metres and it was not long before the home fans began to chant the name of Messi. Straight after the restart Nolito was guilty of another glaring miss but Barca began to take more of a grip on the game and Sergi Roberto impressed in midfield as he began to direct play.
Messi came on but in his one chance to equal Mueller's record he attempted to round Artur who clawed the ball away. When Messi retrieved it he twisted his knee and picked up the injury which ended his game.