Barcelona rebounds from loss with Atletico win

Madrid: Lionel Messi was stretchered off with what looked like a serious ankle injury after the Argentina forward and Gerard Pique scored in Barcelona`s 2-1 victory at Atletico Madrid.

Messi celebrated the 10th anniversary of his arrival to Barcelona with a 13th-minute opener before Raul Garcia headed home an equalizer for the hosts in the 25th minute yesterday.

Pique calmly controlled a corner kick inside the Atletico area to fire home the 33rd minute winner, but Barcelona`s victory was marred when World Player of the Year Messi exited on a stretcher during stoppage time.

Messi was diagnosed with a strained right ankle, while Atletico finished with 10 players after Tomas Ujfalusi was sent off for tripping the Argentina forward in full flight.

"I think the images speak for themselves," coach Pep Guardiola said. "The doctors will tell us how he is (on Monday). He`s sad, red-eyed. But these things happen. Now we can only wait on the prognosis and help him recover."

The Spanish champion won at the Vicente Calderon stadium for the first time since the 2006-`07 season and bounced back from its first Spanish league defeat.

Earlier, Juanma Mata and Pablo Hernandez scored first-half goals as Valencia beat Hercules 2-1 to maintain its perfect start and go top of the league with nine points.

Spain forward Mata opened after two minutes before Hernandez made it 2-0 from a free kick in the 24th minute.

Former France striker David Trezeguet scored his first goal for Hercules, which was coming off a 2-0 victory over Barcelona, with a penalty before halftime.

Real Madrid, which beat Real Sociedad 2-1 on Saturday, is second alongside Sevilla with seven points while Barcelona, Atletico, Espanyol and Villarreal have six points.

Sevilla rallied from Jose Rondon`s 14th-minute opener with Alejandro Alfaro equalizing six minutes later before Martin Caceres scored the winner in the 47th minute at La Rosaleda stadium.

Also, Nilmar scored two first-half goals to lead Villarreal to a 2-1 win at Levante, which pulled one back through Felipe Caicedo in stoppage time.

Henrique and Ariel Nahuelpan scored second half goals as Racing Santander beat Zaragoza 2-0.

Barcelona showed the surprise defeat to promoted Hercules was forgotten as it arrived in the Spanish capital on the heels of a 5-1 Champions League win over Panathinaikos.

But Messi`s injury could reverse what was starting to shape up a good run.

"You can`t do anything about it," Pique said. "You just try to keep your head up and stay positive going forward into the next games."