Ibrahimovic injured as Barcelona race to top

Zlatan Ibrahimovic rises to head home Barcelona's opening goal against Racing Santander.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his fourth goal in as many La Liga outings as Spanish champions Barcelona matched their best start to season since 1997-98 with a 4-1 trouncing of Racing Santander, but the summer signing also suffered an injury blow.

The Catalan club romped to a fourth successive victory to return to the top of the table, scoring three times in seven first-half minutes as Lionel Messi ended up with another double. Striker Ibrahimovic, who cost $68 million in the swap deal that saw last season’s top scorer Samuel Eto’o join Inter Milan, put the visitors ahead in the 20th minute. The tall Swede rose highest at the far post to meet Messi’s deft left-footed cross from the right, with his header deflecting into the net off the back of defender Enrique, and then hit the post with a low shot almost immediately from the restart. Messi, who scored twice in Saturday’s 5-2 victory against Atletico Madrid, made it 2-0 four minutes later when he danced into the penalty area and curled an exquisite shot into the far corner of the net. Ibrahimovic returned to center stage in the 27th minute with a cheeky backheel that gave defender Gerard Pique — an injury doubt before the game, and playing with a bandaged head — the simplest of tasks to make it 3-0. Ibrahimovic was booked for a clumsy tackle just before the interval, then Messi had a goal ruled out with the final act of the half.

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However, Ibrahimovic had to go off in the 52nd minute after twisting an ankle soon after the break as he appeared to catch his studs in the turf. Argentina star Messi, who recently signed a lucrative extension of his contract until 2016, made it 4-0 in the 63rd minute after beating three defenders and lashing in a left-footed shot for his fifth goal of the campaign. Winger Oscar Serrano reduced the deficit nine minutes later with just the third goal that Barcelona have conceded in 360 minutes of La Liga football this season. Earlier on Tuesday night, Sevilla moved into third place with a 2-0 win at home to previously unbeaten Mallorca, as Sebastien Squillaci and summer signing Diego Perotti scored in the opening 25 minutes. The result left the Andalusians behind Real Madrid on goal difference, with Athletic Bilbao behind them also on nine points. Real travel to Villarreal on Wednesday, while Bilbao visit Tenerife. Squillaci headed the opener in the 17th minute from a corner as he rose above Bruno China to meet Julien Escude’s flick-on and beat goalkeeper Dudu Aouate. Seven minutes later, Jesus Navas beat two defenders and his pinpoint cross allowed fellow winger Perotti to head home from close range. Squillaci should have scored another from close range in the second half, but scuffed his shot, while summer signing Alvaro Negredo also squandered a golden late chance.