Lionel Messi scored twice as 10-man Barcelona began their La Liga season with a 3-0 win over Elche at the Nou Camp.
The talisman netted two trademark goals, while 18-year-old Munir El Haddadi completed the scoring in Luis Enrique’s first competitive game in charge.
Barca were a man light for more than half of the contest though, as Javier Mascherano was shown a straight red card for a professional foul just before the break.
Enrique was making his bow on the Catalan giants’ touchline and he also handed debuts to three new signings with Claudio Bravo, Jeremy Mathieu and Ivan Rakitic all starting, while B team graduates Munir and Rafinha made their first appearances in the red and blue shirts.
Less than a minute was on the clock at the Nou Camp when play a stray black cat made its way onto the hallowed turf. Play was upheld for 90 seconds as security eventually had to shepherd the feline from the field.
The hosts were certainly struck by bad luck after that throughout the half, as they twice struck the woodwork. Munir was first to hit the upright on 22 minutes after he cleverly skipped away from his marker, before thudding the ball against the crossbar. Andres Iniesta was also denied in the same fashion, as his sweetly-struck left-footed effort had Przemyslaw Tyton well beaten.
Messi had not been too involved up until this point, but he stepped up to the plate and broke the deadlock three minutes before the break. In trademark style, he glided past a couple of standing defenders before passing the ball into the far corner of the net.
For the Barca fans’ relief they were stunned within 60 seconds of the restart, as Mascherano was dismissed for tripping Garry Rodrigues who would have been clean through but for his intervention.
The lead was doubled within a minute of the second half’s commencing. Rakitic received the ball in the centre-circle and his lofted ball over the defence found Munir, who brilliantly flicked home with the outside of his left foot.
Barca were very comfortable at this point and they made it three 18 minutes later. It was another typical Messi goal as he once again drifted past defenders lying in his wake, before slotting the ball past a flat-footed Tyton.
The keeper did well to deny substitute Pedro in stoppage-time though after he was slipped through by Messi, but it was a routine victory and perfect start to Enrique’s reign at the Nou Camp.
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