La Liga - Barca held by spirited Sevilla

Sun, 13 Mar 21:55:00 2011

Lionel Messi was at the centre of a huge injury scare as Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by a spirited Sevilla side in a pulsating La Liga contest.

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Bojan Krikic saw his 30th minute opener for Barca cancelled out by a Jesus Navas header at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan, but the match will be recalled as much for the sight of Messi lying on the ground for several minutes after the half-time whistle sounded.

The FIFA world player of the year appeared to suffer a blow to a knee in going for a loose ball with Sevilla keeper Javi Varas. He required treatment before hobbling off the park with the help of several of Barca's backroom staff.

He reappeared for the second period, but found his movement restricted as Sevilla recovered in some style to earn a deserved draw from a terrific encounter that saw both teams give their lot for the three points.

Barca's failure to win sees their lead over Real Madird cut to five points after Jose Mourinho's side enjoyed a 2-0 victory over Hercules at the Bernabeu on Saturday.

Barca coach Pep Guardiola will probably wonder how his side managed to squander two points after enjoying the kind of dominance in the first half that overwhelmed Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday.

If Barca were guilty of anything in the match, it was of overplaying the ball rather than opting for an earlier shot when space opened up.

Messi had the ball in the net from a free-kick on six minutes only for the goal to be ruled off with the referee deeming Sergio Busquets to be guilty of fouling Alexis off the ball.

Barca took the lead after a move of some beauty.

Andres Iniesta found Dani Alves in the box and he knocked the ball past home goalkeeper Javi Varas for substitute Bojan - who had replaced the injured Pedro early on - to finish with some ease.

Messi's control let him down on 32 minutes when he looked set to race in on goal before David Villa flashed a shot wide of the target on 37 minutes.

Messi then saw a header crash back off the bar from inside the area after a delightful cross from Xavi.

Varas was forced to dive to tip a Messi free-kick wide off a post as a dazed Sevilla side somehow reached the sanctuary of the dressing room only one goal behind.

With Freddie Kanoute thrown on as an impact substitute to replace Didier Zokora at the interval, the tide began to turn when Navas popped up with the equaliser.

Alvaro Negredo showed admirable resilience to take the ball beyond Eric Abidal and Victor Valdes before crossing for Navas to nod home the header as the home fans went wild.

Negredo fired over the bar from the edge of the box moments later as the game suddenly raged from end to end with Barca's passing game noticeably disrupted.

Barca could still have won it in the second period despite Sevilla's recovery as Messi saw a shot nudged off the line by Gary Medel, who was on hand to do likewise from an Iniesta effort deep into stoppage time.

Messi narrowly missed connecting with Bojan's pass across the face of goal on 81 minutes, while Valdes was forced to claim Kanoute's powerful volley at the second attempt.

Iniesta also rattled the bar on 85 minutes from outside the area, but a Barca winner would have been harsh on Sevilla after an energised performance in the second period.


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