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Messi scores before injury in Barcelona's win at Almeria

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The Canadian Press
9/28/2013 6:55:22 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Atletico Madrid's record-setting 1-0 win over Real Madrid brought an emphatic end to its crosstown rival's 14-year unbeaten league run in their Spanish capital derby on Saturday.

On-form Diego Costa struck in the 11th minute and not even Gareth Bale in his home debut for Madrid could help it rally.

Atletico's big win came after Lionel Messi scored before being substituted due to injury to help Barcelona win 2-0 at Almeria.

Barcelona and Atletico set club records by staying perfect through seven rounds to start the season, opening up a five-point gap over Madrid.

Messi and Diego Costa have guided their teams to their milestones and lead the league with eight goals each.

"We are having a great year and we have to keep it going," said Atletico's Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion, who set up Diego Costa's goal. "Diego Costa is in a spectacular moment. He has helped us a lot."

Bale, Madrid's 100-million-euro man, went on at the start of the second half, finally playing in front of his new home fans after straining his left thigh while warming up before last weekend's match.

Yet neither the Wales winger in 45 minutes nor Cristiano Ronaldo in 90 were able to target Atletico's goal.

"Atletico was more aggressive and ran more. It wasn't our day," said Ronaldo. "We have to understand that we need to improve. I played poorly and many of my teammates did so as well. Our coach had nothing to do with it. It's our fault."

Atletico's last league win against Madrid had come in 1999, and since then it had gone 23 games without a victory.

But Atletico's victory over Madrid in the same Santiago Bernabeu Stadium last May to claim the Copa del Rey had apparently given it the boost in confidence it needed to break its horrendous streak.

While Atletico squeaked out that cup win in extra time, Diego Simeone's side simply outplayed Madrid on Saturday, creating many more shots and deploying a swarming defence that kept Madrid in check until the final minutes.

Simeone pumped both fists on the final whistle as he left the dugout, deservedly satisfied with his team's effort.

"We can play better or worse, but our commitment to working hard is nonnegotiable," said Simeone. "The team is above everything else. The economic power of Barcelona and Madrid is superior to ours. We give it our all in each game."

Diego Costa, who also scored in last season's cup final, took the game's sole goal when Filipe Luis stole the ball from Madrid's Angel Di Maria and Koke placed a throughball for his goalscorer to coolly fire it in.

As the Brazilian forward soaked up the dismay of Madrid's supporters, Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti turned away and slapped his leg in frustration.

"We are not playing well. We have to solve this by having a better attitude, staying concentrated, and playing with more speed and pace," said Ancelotti. "It's true that five points behind Barcelona and Atletico isn't a little amount. But that's not the problem."

Messi netted his goal in the 21st with a left-footed shot after combining with Pedro Rodriguez, but he asked to be replaced eight minutes later after hurting a muscle in his right leg.

Adriano sealed the result for Barcelona in the 56th from a pass by Cesc Fabregas while Messi watched from the bench.

Messi's injury leaves him in doubt for Tuesday's Champions League match at Celtic, when Atletico plays at Porto. Madrid hosts Copenhagen on Wednesday.

Barcelona said the Argentina forward would undergo more tests on Sunday.

While Barcelona may be missing Messi for the trip to Glasgow, it should have Neymar well rested after the striker didn't play a minute at Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium.

Barcelona's first-year coach Gerardo Martino has guided Barcelona to its best start in 82 leagues. Five other managers, including Pep Guardiola (2009-10) and predecessor Tito Vilanova (2012-13), had reached six wins.

"I have only latched on to one of the records that these players have broken and continue to break," said Martino. "They have been doing so for years both individually and as a team. The fact that I formed a part of this one is circumstantial."

Elsewhere, Jonas scored his third winning goal for Valencia this week to secure a 1-0 victory at home over Rayo Vallecano.

Jonas netted the decisive goal in recent wins against Sevilla and Granada, and he stepped up once again to produce the 36th-minute winner after intercepting a poor pass by Rayo's Saul Niguez.

Real Sociedad, meanwhile, was held to 1-1 at home by Sevilla before its Champions League game at Leverkusen on Wednesday.

Lionel Messi Cesc Fabregas (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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