Messi brilliance tempered by Neymar injury

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

Lionel Messi got the goals, one of which was sublime, as Barcelona enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win on Thursday at Getafe to reach the last eight of the Spanish Cup. However, the loss of Neymar to an ankle injury that could see the Brazilian out for a number of games will worry Barca fans just as the schedule begins to get busy.

- Report: Neymar injured as Barca cruise

After this open game of football influenced somewhat by the 4-0 score line in Barca's favour from the first leg, Barca will now move on to play Levante, with the first leg away next Wednesday in Valencia. Ironically, next week’s first leg will come just three days after a league fixture between the two sides, also at Levante’s home ground.

Neymar had to be replaced by Alexis Sanchez on 22 minutes after he stretched for a ball that was running out of play and fell awkwardly. As soon as the Brazilian went to ground, he indicated something was wrong. By halftime, he was diagnosed with sprained tendons in his right ankle, and more tests were to be carried out Friday.

While the word afterward was the injury is not as bad as it first seemed and he was able to hobble out of the stadium without the use of crutches, it could still be a major setback for the Brazilian, who had played only 32 minutes in Barca's first three games of the new year.

However, with plenty of attacking backup, coach Tata Martino need worry only about having him back in one piece. After the game, he said that everyone would be "calm" until further tests could decide how long the player will miss.

"All we have seen so far of Neymar has filled us with confidence. Thank God it appears to be not as bad as it could have been. He will be out for a spell, but he is OK," Martino underlined.

The wet pitch might have played a factor, as it was a damp night in the south of Madrid. Neymar was not the only player to leave the pitch with an injury: Getafe's Alexis joined him minutes later and Dani Alves seemed to be in trouble as well at one stage in the first half.

A combination of the weather, the high ticket prices and the first-leg result meant that the Getafe public was not enticed from their homes to see Barca. A mere 5,000, at the most, were present for what was an enjoyable encounter.

Only the foot of Getafe keeper Jordi Codina had earlier denied Messi a hat trick at the death, after the Argentinian gave further proof that he has overcome his own injury problems.

Messi was starting his first game in more than two months, and, more importantly, completed a full 90 minutes for the first time since the city derby against Espanyol on Nov. 1.

His second goal will be forgotten due to the news about his teammate, but it was pure Messi. He finished off a diagonal run from right to left that then took him past four lunging defenders before rounding the keeper and slotting home from a tight angle.

The first goal just before the break was not bad, either, as he showed that his sharpness is back by latching onto a Cristian Tello cross from the left and hitting home a first-time shot.

There were also runouts for Marc Bartra, who signed a new contract with the club this week and the underused Alex Song, Tello and Carles Puyol.

Stand-in keeper Jose Manuel Pinto again showed he can be trusted in the Cup by keeping another clean sheet and pulling off a great save on 20 minutes from Juan Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, Sergi Roberto featured in his 13th straight game for the side and put in another performance that seems to indicate he is here to stay. In the second half, he was replaced by Xavi Hernandez, who he is earmarked to replace at some stage in the future, and he was making his 700th appearance for the club.

Of those 700 games, Xavi has started 615 and completed 466. If Roberto manages just half of that workload, he will have done very well, indeed.

Martino said afterward on Xavi that he is "one of those players that should finish his career in the same shirt in which he has played 700 games," possibly in response to a rumour that he could finish his career in the MLS next season.

Whatever happens in the distant future, Barca's present will include three games against Levante in the next two weeks. It is doubtful that Neymar will be available for any of those, but there is plenty in reserve to help the Blaugrana out.


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