Barcelona kicked off their 2014/15 La Liga campaign in style on Sunday, disposing of Elche 3-0 at the Nou Camp despite being reduced to 10 men.
Midfielder Javier Mascherano was dismissed just before the interval, and while Elche’s one-man advantage may well have given them confidence, they were forgetting one impossible task that still remained on their hands—keeping Lionel Messi at bay.
Messi was the thorn in Elche’s side throughout the match, and just before his countryman Mascherano got himself sent off, he gave Barcelona the lead—although taking 42 minutes to get his name on the scoresheet was deemed a little too long by Gary Lineker:
Finally Messi has scored this season...42 minutes it's taken.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 24, 2014
It was a textbook Messi goal, showing nimble footwork to dance his way into the box before slamming the ball home, leaving sports journalist Jonas Giaever to sing the star’s praises:
New season, same old Lionel Messi.— Jonas Giæver (@CheGiaevara) August 24, 2014
The 27-year-old is as lethal as they come in front of goal, and as Squawka Football revealed, he didn’t need a second invitation to open his account for the season:
Lionel Messi scores for Barcelona with his first shot on target of the La Liga season. Same old story. pic.twitter.com/oeJAMC77D9— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 24, 2014
The way that Messi was gliding past defenders and demonstrating football telepathy with his teammates was refreshing to see, and Mirror Football summed it up quite simply:
MESSI: GOOD AT PLAYING FOOTBALL— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) August 24, 2014
Eighteen-year-old wonderkid Munir El Haddadi then doubled the Catalan giants’ lead just after half-time with a well-taken strike, but for Messi, that was an “anything you can do” challenge.
If the Argentinian’s first goal was a beautiful finish, then there simply aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe how he doubled his tally on 64 minutes—it was composure personified.
Messi picked the ball up on the edge of Elche’s box, and though surrounded by three defenders, he worked his way into a shooting position before burying the chance, as Coral revealed:
Messi makes it look so effortless. https://t.co/JfJCfKYucY— Coral (@Coral) August 24, 2014
How the forward wriggles his way out of challenges is beyond even the brightest minds in football, but one thing’s for sure: Messi’s back to his best—something that Bleacher Report’s Karl Matchett commented upon:
3-0. Messi. some things don't change!— Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) August 24, 2014
While he played well at times in the World Cup with Argentina, his performances certainly didn’t justify winning the Player of the Tournament award, and it seems as if he came into Sunday’s match with a point to prove.
Alongside Andres Iniesta, Messi dictated the entire match, leaving beIN Sports’ Andres Cordero to reflect on the pair’s brilliance:
Messi and Iniesta, man. The adjectives haven't been invented yet.— Andres Cordero (@DreCordero) August 24, 2014
Lineker also gave his two cents on the Argentinian, saying that he has returned to his best:
Messi is playing and moving like...Messi. The master is back to his best.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 24, 2014
Though a fabulous start from both Messi’s and Barcelona’s points of view, it’s maintaining that high level of performance throughout the season that will see Barca return to the top of Spanish and European football—per journalist Sergi Dominguez:
Messi looked very sharp today. Dropped deep and won the ball back high-up numerous times. Must maintain that throughout the season.— Sergi Domínguez (@FutbolSergi) August 24, 2014
Luis Enrique’s side face a tough trip to Villarreal next week, but with Messi in this kind of form, three points are very much on the agenda.
Last season saw Messi heavily criticised by the media for not having his usual 60-goal season, and he’s come out in 2014/15 as if he’s determined to prove everyone wrong. Be afraid, La Liga defences.