Messi worry mars Barca's title joy

Messi worry mars Barca's title joy
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Sunday, May 12, 2013 - 4:56pm

Lionel Messi's remarkable La Liga scoring streak came to an end on Sunday as Barcelona celebrated reclaiming the Spanish title with a less than convincing 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid.

Messi started his first domestic match since the end of March, but was taken off in the 68th minute having apparently failed to recover from the injury problems that have dogged the latter part of his season.

It meant his run of having scored in 21 successive league matches came to a halt, but Barca did recover from 1-0 down when he left the pitch despite needing to complete the match with only 10 men having made all possible replacements.

The victory that leaves the Catalans on course to match Real Madrid's points record from last season.

Having clinched a fourth title in five seasons when second-placed Real could only draw with Espanyol on Saturday, Barca went behind five minutes after halftime in the Spanish capital.

Gabi dispossessed Gerard Pique and fed the ball to striker Radamel Falcao, who netted his 28th goal this season to stay third in the "Pichichi" scoring stakes behind Messi (46) and Cristiano Ronaldo (34).

Alexis Sanchez leveled the score five minutes after Messi departed, toe-poking in a low shot after combining well with Cesc Fabregas for his 10th in La Liga. The Chilean was then booked after taking off his shirt to reveal a Mother's Day message.

Barca's winner came with 10 minutes to play, and was equally unrepresentative of the elegant play usually associated with the club.

Striker David Villa scuffed a shot which deflected off Diego Godin and -- apparently going wide of the goal -- then hit Gabi before bobbling into Thibaut Courtois' net.

Ugly as it was, it means Barca can equal Real's tally of 100 points by winning the last three games.

Atletico stayed third after the defeat, but can still win a trophy this season by beating city rivals Real in next Friday's Copa del Rey final.

Valencia climbed into the fourth Champions League place with a 4-0 win at midtable Rayo Vallecano, moving a point above Real Sociedad -- who host Granada on Monday.

Sixth-placed Malaga drew 0-0 with Sevilla, while seventh-placed Real Betis won 1-0 at home to second-bottom Celta Vigo, with Ruben Castro scoring the second-half winner.

Italy

AC Milan stayed third in Serie A despite being held 0-0 by seventh-placed Roma in a match which featured a bizarre red card for Sulley Muntari and a halt to the action due to racist chants aimed at Mario Balotelli.

Balotelli was booked for a first-half foul and then his Milan teammate Muntari was ordered off after trying to prevent the referee from issuing another yellow card when the midfielder protested the decision.

The veteran Ghana international clasped the official's arms and kept them pinned to his side, but was eventually sent from the pitch.

The referee then stopped the match in the second half to issue a warning to the crowd via the public address system, following Italy's new procedures for cracking down on racist abuse.

Roma also had a man sent off as veteran captain Francesco Totti went for an elbow in time added on.

Edinson Cavani took his Serie A-leading goal tally to 28 as second-placed Napoli came from behind to beat relegated Siena 2-1 thanks to Marek Hamsik's injury-time winner.

Hamsik had earlier set up Cavani's leveling header with 17 minutes to play.

Fiorentina stayed in contention to pip Milan for a place in the Champions League qualifying round next season, beating Palermo 1-0 with a first-half goal from veteran striker Luca Toni that relegated the visiting team.

To miss out on the Champions League, Milan will have to lose next weekend's final match at Siena, while Fiorentina must beat bottom club Pescara -- or win by more than four goals if the Rossoneri draw.

Udinese stayed fifth with a 2-1 win over Atalanta as Antonio Di Natale scored both goals to take his total this season to 22, keeping the striker second behind Cavani.

France

Paris Saint-Germain clinched a first Ligue 1 title since 1994 after winning 1-0 at third-placed Lyon on Sunday.

Midfielder Jeremy Menez scored the only goal in the 53rd minute to put big-spending PSG seven points clear of Marseille with two matches to play.

It gave coach Carlo Ancelotti a league title in three countries, having previously won in Italy with AC Milan and in England with Chelsea, while star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrated a championship in his fifth different nation.

It also represented the first trophy for PSG's Qatari owners, who have spent a reported $320 million on players since taking a controlling share in 2011.

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