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Messi brace hands Enrique winning start Mascherano sees red as Barca rout Elche

BARCELONA, Aug 25, (RTRS): Lionel Messi wasted little time in finding his stride as he struck twice to lead 10-man Barcelona to a 3-0 home win over Elche and hand new coach Luis Enrique a happy start to the La Liga season on Sunday. Youngster Munir El Haddadi hit the woodwork as did Andres Iniesta before Messi made the breakthrough, turning well in the box and slotting in after 42 minutes. Barca’s job was complicated with Javier Mascherano sent off for bringing down Garry Rodrigues a minute later but Munir, drafted into the side as a replacement for the injured Neymar, clipped home to make it 2-0 shortly after the restart. Messi, whose Argentina side were beaten in the World Cup final by Germany in July, was the talisman once again for Barca.

He made space for himself on the edge of the area and found the back of the net again after 63 minutes. The result handed Luis Enrique a promising start with Barcelona after the club failed to win any major trophy last season under Gerardo Martino. “I’ve always said that Messi is the best player in the world in all the ways that you want to look at it,” Luis Enrique told a news conference. “If Messi wanted to be a defender he would be the best in the world defending. We have seen him do more difficult things in training and he will keep being the best in the world as long as he wants to be.

“The game was made more difficult with the sending off and the team had to respond by playing a bit deeper but with the team we have and Messi in form it worked out.” Luis Enrique put his confidence in youth with Munir and Rafinha given a chance in attack alongside Messi. It was a sign of veteran Xavi’s changing role in the side that he was on the bench with new signing Ivan Rakitic taking his place and the Croat slotted in effortlessly in the midfield. It was the usual Barca style with more pace than they showed for much of last season but they found it difficult to break down a well-organised Elche.
 
Munir has looked sharp during pre-season and his quick movement and shot almost gave Barca the lead midway through the first half but his effort came back off the crossbar. Iniesta also struck the woodwork from 25 metres and Dani Alves failed to hit the target from inside the area before Messi gave them the lead. Mascherano’s dismissal for upending Rodrigues as last man did not unsettle Barca and having quickly got their second from Munir they never looked back.
 
Messi was found by Alves and he toyed with the Elche defenders, looking to go one way then the other, before picking his spot to complete the scoring. In other matches, Eibar made their debut in the top flight with a 1-0 victory over neighbours Real Sociedad with Javi Lara scoring the only goal before halftime. Joaquin Larrivey, Fabian Orellana and Nolito gave Celta Vigo a 3-1 victory over Getafe whose only reply came from Jorge Sammir. Villarreal beat derby rivals Levante 2-0 with second half goals from Ikechukwu Uche and Denis Cheryshev. Champions Atletico Madrid begin their title defence on Monday at Rayo Vallecano having lifted the Super Cup on Friday with a 2-1 aggregate win over Real Madrid, who host Cordoba in their La Liga bow on Monday.
 
Barcelona made errors in the transfer of under-age players but will go to CAS over the severity of the FIFA transfer ban for two consecutive windows, president Josep Maria Bartomeu said on Sunday. FIFA upheld a decision last Wednesday to sanction the Catalan club for breaching rules on the international transfer of under-18 players and it means they now cannot register players in the next January and July-August 2015 windows. The initial ban was suspended pending Barca’s failed appeal, allowing the likes of Luis Suarez to be brought in during this window, but Bartomeu said they will now take the fight to get the penalty reduced to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). “We were conscious that the ban was going to be ratified because we have committed some errors,” he told Spanish television. “We will go to CAS. We are going to work on a good defence so that in the coming months the situation can be resolved more favourably for us.
 
“We have a few weeks to send our motives for wanting to have the ban reduced. Often these cases end up with CAS. We recognise that we have done things badly but the sanction is very heavy.” The world governing body also rejected Barcelona’s appeal against a 450,000 Swiss francs ($493,637) fine and they have been given 90 days to regularise the situation of all the minor players concerned. Uruguay striker Suarez led a long list of recruits during the close season and Barca have especially reinforced in defence after fortunately being able to sign players before the appeal was heard. Bartomeu said they were covering themselves in case they cannot get the ban eased, with the remaining days of this window not counting in the sanction.
 
“We have planned the season thinking that we could be two transfer windows without making a signing,” he said. “We have a B side with very strong players that can move up to the first team but we will see what happens with CAS and see what happens over the coming months. “We think that the ban is out of proportion. We have signed a lot of players but we are still looking at the market and we have not closed the door on any more deals.”

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