MADRID (AP) — Barcelona held on for a 2-1 win over Villarreal on Tuesday after Lionel Messi had to be replaced at halftime in his first start after a long injury layoff.
Messi set up Antoine Griezmann's goal early into the match at Camp Nou Stadium, but the Argentina playmaker didn't return for the second half because of an apparent left leg problem.
Arthur also scored for Barcelona, while Santi Cazorla pulled Villarreal closer just before halftime.
The victory helped Barcelona rebound from two recent setbacks and move to fourth place in the league standings, one point behind leader Granada, which earlier Tuesday drew 1-1 at Valladolid. Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid have the same 11 points as Granada, but both teams have a game in hand.
Barcelona lost 2-0 to Granada on Saturday, and was held 0-0 by Borussia Dortmund last week in its first Champions League match of the season.
Griezmann opened the scoring with a header from a cross by Messi in the sixth minute for his third goal since joining Barcelona in the offseason. Arthur added to the lead with a powerful shot from outside the area in the 15th, and Cazorla pulled one back for the visitors in the 44th, also from long range.
Messi hurt his left leg less than half an hour into the match. The playmaker left the field and doctors attended to his leg for few minutes before he eventually returned and finished the half.
Messi, who had been nursing a right calf injury he picked up in the preseason, played his first minutes of the season when he came off the bench in the second half of the match against Borussia Dortmund last week. He also came off the bench in the second half of the loss at Granada.
Messi was replaced by Ousmane Dembele, who has also been injured and made his first appearance since the league opener.
Also Tuesday, Real Betis came from behind to defeat Levante 3-1 at home, moving to ninth in the 20-team standings.
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