By STEVE DOUGLAS
The Associated Press - Published: December 6, 2012
LONDON — Lionel Messi was taken off the field on a cart because of a knee injury in Barcelona’s 0-0 tie with Benfica in a Champions League game Wednesday night, while defending champion Chelsea failed to advance to the final 16 in the tournament.
With Barcelona already assured of advancing to the second round, Messi entered as a reserve in the 58th minute.
Messi’s left knee collided with the right hand of Benfica’s Artur as the Argentine star ran onto Gerard Pique’s long pass and tried to round the goalkeeper in the 85th minute. Messi took a left-footed shot from an angle, then fell to the field in pain. He rolled onto his back and held the knee, then was loaded onto a cart.
“It’s a bruise, which doctors have been having a look at,” Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova said. “We now have to wait for the results of tests, but the feeling is that it isn’t more serious than a knock.”
A three-time FIFA Player of the Year, Messi has 84 goals for Barcelona and Argentina this year, one shy of Gerd Mueller’s 40-year-old record for most goals in a calendar year for club and country.
“Had we been worried just about the record we would have played Messi right from the beginning,” Vilanova said. “But we had talked about it and decided to bring him on with half an hour to play.”
Juventus eliminated Chelsea with a 1-0 victory at Shakhtar Donetsk, and Galatasaray and Celtic also qualified for the last 16 after the final round of group matches.
Chelsea, which needed to better Juventus’ result in Ukraine to finish second in Group E, beat FC Nordsjaelland 6-1 for Rafa Benitez’s first win as interim manager. However, Olexander Kucher’s own goal gave Juventus the victory and the top spot ahead of Shakhtar.
“We knew it could happen, unfortunately the damage had been done before,” said Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, whose side became the first reigning champion to exit at the group stage.
Galatasaray beat Braga 2-1 to finish ahead of CFR Cluj, which won 1-0 at below-strength Manchester United. Celtic topped Spartak Moscow 2-1 in Group G to oust Benfica.
Bayern Munich topped Group F by thrashing BATE Borisov 4-1, finishing ahead of Valencia despite the Spanish side’s 1-0 win at Lille.
Both Bayern and Valencia were already sure of going through.
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