Barca begin La Liga season with win

Lionel Messi struck twice as his 10-man team beat Elche in their opening La Liga match.

Lionel Messi struck twice as his 10-man team beat Elche in their opening La Liga match. Picture: Official Barcelona Twitter account: @FCBarcelona

BARCELONA - 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."

On Monday, champions Athletico Madrid play Real Vallecano while Real Madrid play Cordoba.

RESULTS

SATURDAY

Malaga 1-0 Athletico Bilbao

Sevilla 1-1 Valencia

SUNDAY

Eibar 1-0 Sociedad

Celta Vigo 3-1 Getafe

Barcelona 3-0 Elche

Levante 0-2 Villarreal