Lionel Messi made a scoring return to the Barcelona starting line-up last night as Luis Enrique’s men hit Elche for five in the Copa Del Rey last 16 – setting up something of a dead-rubber second leg in Alicante.
Neymar and Luis Suarez also found the net as the Catalan giants made an emphatic return to winning ways, banishing memories of a shock 1-0 defeat to David Moyes’ Real Sociedad last weekend.
It didn’t take long for Barcelona to make their mark on the tie as Neymar side-footed home from close range, before Suarez and Messi made it 3-0 before half-time.
Well timed win
Defender Jordi Alba resumed the scoring shortly after the break to make it 4-0 before Neymar rounded the rout off on the hour mark with his second goal of the night.
The emphatic fashion of the win will ease the pressure slightly on Luis Enrique who has fielded plenty of criticism in the past week.
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Lionel dancing on the ceiling
Having learned the hard-way the grief that comes with dropping Messi, Enrique understandably restored him to the starting line-up – and he was quick to make an impact.
The diminutive Argentinean squirmed through the dazzled Elche back line and fired straight at Przemyslaw Tyton inside 10 minutes.
And he took control of the game just before half-time when he seized the opportunity to take a penalty after Neymar was brought down in the box by Enzo Roco.
Jumping on the score sheet
Luis Suarez pulled plenty of strings too as he squared the ball to Neymar to break the deadlock as well as netting Barce’s second after a clever dummy.
Neymar scored the game’s best goal with a long-range strike that found its way into the Elche net after a slight deflection.
The victory all but guarantees Barcelona’s place in the Quarter-Finals of the tournament with 90 minutes remaining in the tie.