Barcelona vs. Elche: Winners and Losers from La Liga Game
Barcelona got their 2014-15 season off to a winning start with a 3-0 home triumph over Elche on Sunday night. Lionel Messi scored twice and young forward Munir added another in a routine win, though Barcelona ended up with 10 men for the entire second half.
It was a more than comfortable win for Barcelona as they dominated from start to finish, even with one man less.
Here, we take a look at the winners and the losers from the game, and we'll be focusing almost exclusively on Barcelona—not because they're the bigger side, but because Elche's game plan was clearly to come and simply not lose by five or six goals, offering little going the other way and contributing not much to the game as a whole.
What a start by young forward Munir.
Having impressed in pre-season, he was given the start for the season opener by new boss Luis Enrique, and he certainly responded in style.
Munir was one of the big early dangers for Barcelona at 0-0 as he cracked a shot against the crossbar early on and was involved in plenty of buildup play. One minute into the second half, he ran clear and coolly finished his first senior goal for the Catalan side.
Loser: Javier Mascherano
Javier Mascherano got the nod at centre-back for Barcelona, alongside debutant Jeremy Mathieu.
His season opener lasted just 44 minutes though, as he was sent off for tripping Jonathas as he ran through on goal as the last man.
Mascherano should go on to play a big role again this season for Barcelona, but he'll be frustrated to lose his place in the team so early on. The pressure will be on Gerard Pique and Co. to step up in his absence.
Winner: Lionel Messi
No World Cup, no problem.
Elche aren't the most fearsome opponents Messi will face this season, but he was excellent against them nonetheless.
Great movement, technique and finishing gave him his two goals, but he was also a creative and clever player in buildup, freeing others to run in on goal, too. He also dropped off into space at times, picking up the ball in the box at others.
One game, two goals. A good start.
Winner: Ivan Rakitic
Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic made his competitive Barcelona debut, playing centrally in the 4-3-3 system. He looked as though he had been there for five years.
Again, the opposition was mediocre at best, and he was afforded far too much space to roam around in, but playing alongside Andres Iniesta, he immediately looked comfortable and capable in a constructive, creative role. He supplied passes from deep and looked to find spaces for the frontmen to run into.
Rakitic set up Munir's goal and had a great all-round game.
Loser: Xavi Hernandez
With Rakitic in place, something had to give in the Barcelona midfield from last season, and it turned out to be Xavi Hernandez.
Xavi was named on the bench, the only real "first teamer" other than Pedro, but he didn't get onto the pitch on this occasion as Sergi Roberto was the man to replace Iniesta late on.
At 34 years of age, he still has plenty to offer Barça but may have to accept he won't have a guaranteed starting role every week now, rather, saving him for games in which Barcelona need his experience and quality at full tilt.
They probably couldn't go as far as to blame their defeat on the black cat crossing their path in the first minute of the game, but Elche were roundly outplayed all game.
Even against 10 men, they were rarely a side who looked like taking the game to their opponents and were happy to sit back, deep and compact, from the very first kick-off. Perhaps it would have been different had they not conceded within a minute of the restart, but it looked damage limitation from the outset.
They won't be too bothered about defeat away to Barcelona, though: Elche's season really starts next week at home to Granada.