Messi strikes twice to give Luis Enrique happy start
Barcelona launch new era in style against Elche despite having Javier Mascherano sent off
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 Messi is the best player in the world in all the ways that you want to look at it," Luis Enrique said.
"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."
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.