There's nothing like having a miracle worker like Lionel Messi in your lineup to make up for a lot of sins.

If it wasn't for the Argentine superstar's late brace, struggling Barcelona side would have gone down to its first loss of the Spanish La Liga season on Sunday.

Instead, visiting Barca recorded a 2-1 win over 10-man Osasuna and found itself atop the standings.

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova was not around to watch the closing minutes as he was given his marching orders from the team's dugout after complaining to the referee midway through the final half.

After Joseba Llorente had lifted Osasuna into the lead in the 17th minute, Messi worked his magic with a pair of goals in the 75th and 80th minutes. It certainly did not hurt Barca that Osasuna's Francisco Punal was red carded for protesting Messi's first goal, which he claimed was offside after he converted an Alexis Sanchez cross.

Barcelona finds itself with a five-point lead over archrival Real Madrid, which lost the lead in a shocking 2-1 defeat at Getafe.

Argentine Gonzalo Higuain boosted the visitors into the lead in the first-half, but Getafe refused to give up as Juan Valera headed a goal past goalkeeper Iker Casillas off a free kick to equalizer before Abdelaziz Barrada connected on the game-winner in the 75th minute.

SPAIN

Carlos Vela


Vela, a Mexican midfielder, played a key role in Real Sociedad's 2-1 comeback win over Celta Vigo. After Kike de Lucas had boosted Celta in the lead in the 49th minute, Imanol Agirretxe equalized with the first of his two goals only five minutes later. Vela then set up Agirretxe on a cross for the lead in the 60th minute. As it turned out, Vela kept setting up his teammates, but all they could do was hit the woodwork. The Mexican sent a corner kick to Agirretxe, who headed his attempt off the inside of the post in the first half before Vela set up Antoine Griezmann with a through ball that he hit off the post in the 30th minute.

ENGLAND

Javier Hernandez

Two games into the English Premier League season, and Javier Hernandez still has not started for Manchester United. The Mexican international striker started the game on bench for the EPL powerhouse in its 3-2 victory over Fulham at Old Trafford. But Chicharito might get an opportunity to play regularly over the next month in wake of an injury to striker Wayne Rooney, who opened up a big gash on his right leg when he tried to block a shot by Colombian Hugo Rodallega late in the match. It was United manager Sir Alex Ferguson who blocked Hernandez's chance of playing for Mexico in the London Olympics because he wanted Chicharito to be fully prepared for the new season. Hernandez might be prepared, but he hasn't seen any other serious action.

Carlos Tevez, Luis Suarez

A major source of controversy last season, Tevez certainly is back in the good graces of manager Roberto Mancini, especially after tallying the equalizer for Manchester City in its 2-2 draw at Liverpool. The Argentine stole a backpass from Martin Skrtel and turned it into a goal in the 80th minute. It was Tevez's 100th goal in the EPL. Skrtel had scored to give the Reds the lead in the 33rd minute before Suarez, a Uruguayan international, found the back of the net, curling a 30-yard free kick around the defensive wall in the 66th minute.

Angel Rangel, Michu

The Spanish tandem tallied nine minutes apart in Swansea City's 3-0 victory over West Ham United. Rangel gave the hosts all the scoring they needed in the 19th minute and Michu added an insurance goal in the 28th minute. Danny Graham closed out the scoring for the victors in the 63rd minute.

Bryan Ruiz

The Costa Rican international midfielder created Fulham's first goal, but he failed to equalize later in the match of a 3-2 road defeat to Manchester United . Ruiz helped give the visitors the lead in the third midfield. ManU's Rafael slipped and had the ball taken away by Fulham as Mladen Petric was fouled by Michael Carrick on the edge of the penalty area. Instead of shooting or sending a cross into scrum, the Tico rolled a square ball to Daniel Duff, who beat goalkeeper David Gea for a 1-0 advantage. United, however, scored three unanswered goals to grab a 3-1 halftime bulge. After Fulham moved within a goal, Ruiz's stoppage time header was denied by De Gea.

Fernando Torres


The Spain international striker scored in first-half stoppage time of Chelsea's 2-0 win over Newcastle. Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard, who had converted a 22nd-minute penalty kick, set up Torres with a perfect feed for the second goal of the match.

ITALY

Nicholas Lopez


The 18-year-old Uruguayan came on as a substitute in the 85th minute before he tallied a stoppage-time goal to give AS Roma a 2-2 home tie with Catania.

Arturo Vidal

The Chilean had his penalty kick saved in the 35th minute, but his teammates made up for his miss as the Serie A defending champions opened the season with a 2-0 victory over Parma. Stephan Lichtsteiner and Andrea Pirlo tallied for Juve.

Mario Yepes

Yepes, a Colombian, hit the post late in the match as A.C. Milan went down to a 1-0 defeat to newly promoted Sampdoria.

FRANCE

Guillermo Ochoa


The Mexican international goalkeeper did not see the end of the match as he was replaced in the 62nd minute after injuring his knee in AC Ajaccio's 3-0 road loss at Valenciennes. The defeat left the visitors in 15th place. Mamadou Samassa and Loris Nery solved Ochoa for goals, Nery's effort slotted through the keeper's legs in the 56th minute. Ochoa, who incurred a yellow card in the 58th minute, apparently was injured on the second half. He was replaced by David Oberhauser, who allowed an own goal in the 80th minute.

Renato Civelli

It was a tough day for the Argentine defender in Lille's 2-2 draw at Nice. He had a pass intercepted by Forent Balmont, which was turned into a Dimitri Payet goal in the 39th minute and had a header saved by goalkeeper Mickael Landreau in the 66th minute.

PORTUGAL


Lucho Gonzalez, Jackson Martinez

Gonzalez, an Argentine midfielder, struck for a brace -- a goal in each half of FC Porto's 4-0 home triumph over Vitoria Guimaraes. Gonzalez lifted the hosts into the lead in the 16th minute. After Brazilian Hulk doubled the score in the score in the 66th minute, Gonzalez connected only five minutes later. Martinez, a Colombian striker, closed out the scoring by converting an 80th-minute penalty kick.

RUSSIA

Juan Insaurralde


The Argentine defender scored to give Spartak Moscow the lead, but Terek Grozny struck for two unanswered goals to earn a 2-1 home win.

GERMANY

Juan Arango

The Venezuelan midfielder created one goal off a free kick and scored the game-winner off yet another in Borussia Moenchengladbach’s 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga season-opener for both sides. Arango lanuched a free kick that Mike Hanke headed home to give Borussia a 1-0 advantage in the 33rd minute. After Roberto Firmino equalized, Arango struck yet again, this time curlingthe decisive goal into the bottom right corner of the goal in the 79th minute.

Claudio Pizarro

Pizarro, a Peruvian, failed to get into the scoring column for Bayern Munich in its 3-0 triumph over Greuther Furth as he missed a late opportunity to score.

GREECE

Ariel Ibagaza

The Argentine's corner kick set up Francois Modesto, who scored in the 87th minute to lift Olympiacos a 2-1 win over newly promoted Veria.

UNITED STATES

Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales. Miller Bolanos

The scoring tandem of Rosales to Morales struck not once, not twice, but three times in the Seattle Sounders' 6-2 romp over host Chivas USA. After creating the visitors' first goal by Brad Evans in the second minute, Rosales, an Argentine, set up his Colombian teammate in the 27th, 34th and 67th minutes to give him 11 goals this season. Bolanos, an Ecuadorian, closed Chivas within 3-2 in the 64th minute before Seattle pulled away.

Federico Higuain, Jairo Arrieta, Jerry Bengston, Milovan Mirosevic

Higuain, an Argentinean, and Arrieta, a Costa Rican, struck for two goals apiece as the Columbus Crew rallied from a two-goal deficit to upend the New England Revolution, 4-3. Bengston, a Honduran international, had given the visitors a 2-0 lead in the 14th minute before Columbus came back. Higuain fired home the first of his two free kicks in the 26th minute before Arrieta equalized six minutes later off an assist by the Chilean Mirosevic. Higuain converted his second free kick in the 43rd minute for a 3-2 bulge before New England tied it on the penalty kick. But Arrieta came to the rescue in the 86th minute with his second goal.

Boniek Garcia

The Honduran, created the first goal of the match in the Houston Dynamo's 1-1 draw with Toronto FC. Garcia faked his way around a defender before threading a pass into the penalty area for Will Bruin, who chipped the ball over goakeeper Milos Kocic in the 21st minute.

Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.

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