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Aug 24, 2014

Enrique off to a winning start

BarcelonaBarcelona
ElcheElche
3
0
FT
Game Details

Lionel Messi scored twice to help Barcelona to victory.

Goals from Lionel Messi and teenager Munir El Haddadi ensured Luis Enrique got his era as Barcelona coach off to a winning start as they beat Elche 3-0.

- Corrigan: Messi in the mood

The Catalans had to play the entire second half with 10 man after Javier Mascherano was sent off, but they had earlier taken the lead through Messi, who also grabbed the third, with exciting 18-year-old forward Munir scoring just after half-time.

Just six months ago Munir was playing for Barcelona's Under-18 side but announced himself to the world on Sunday at the Nou Camp on his full debut for the first team, after finishing the pre-season as the club's top scorer with four goals.

The youngster was born to Moroccan parents in Madrid but could be the next Barcelona idol, leaving the pitch to a standing ovation after thrilling the crowd with a lively first appearance.

The headlines will belong to Munir and a reinvigorated Messi but this was a fluid performance from Barca, who played as if it was they and not Elche who were playing with an extra man.

Former Barcelona midfielder and idol Enrique had his name chanted by the Nou Camp faithful throughout the game, and handed five players their first league starts for the club: new signings Claudio Bravo, Jeremy Mathieu and Ivan Rakitic, plus academy graduates Rafinha Alcantara and Munir.

The game was interrupted in the first minute as stewards struggled to remove a black cat that had raced onto the pitch, but Barca soon took control of the play, demonstrating that Enrique is just as keen on his side dominating possession to dizzying levels as his predecessors were.

Rakitic had Barca's first attempt of the game but failed to hit the target, and then Munir came to within inches of scoring his first ever goal at the Nou Camp midway through the first half, smashing the top of the crossbar from the left hand side of the area, his effort applauded by the fans behind the goal.

It was then Andres Iniesta's turn to rattle the bar, while Dani Alves and Lionel Messi both saw their shots miss the target.

Barca finally got the goal they deserved a few minutes before the break.

Busquets dived in to intercept a sloppy pass from an Elche defender and the ball fell straight into the path of Messi, who needed just one touch to bring the ball under control before sweeping it into the bottom corner with his left foot.

However, Barca were dealt a setback just a minute after scoring, Mascherano sent off for bringing down Garry Rodrigues when he was clean through on goal.

Enrique responded to the red card by sacrificing forward Rafinha in favour of defender Marc Bartra immediately after the break, but his attacking players reacted even more effectively to ensure Barca were in no danger of losing their lead after going a man down.

Rakitic played a long ball over the top towards Munir, who waited patiently for it to drop and flicked it into the far corner of the net with a single touch.

But Messi's second goal of the night, arriving a quarter of an hour after Munir's, was the finest move of the night.

The Argentinian attacked down the right and shrugged off four Elche defenders to bring the ball onto his favoured left boot and drive it low into the bottom corner.

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