Seven for Barca
Messi scores twice, then rests as teammates steamroll Levante.
Manager Gerardo Martino hailed Barcelona’s “great performance” in demolishing Levante 7- 0 on Sunday and warned that it was just the start.
Barca’s mix of precise passing and intense pressing was far too much for the visitors as it romped to a 6- 0 first-half lead thanks to goals from Alexis Sanchez, Lionel Messi (2), Dani Alves, Pedro and Xavi.
Martino then introduced Brazilian international Neymar for his debut after the break and could even afford the luxury of withdrawing Messi with 20 minutes remaining before Pedro rounded out the scoring with the seventh goal of the match.
“I was anxious for the league to start to see where the team was and I have been left very calm,” said Martino.
“We put a lot of emphasis on pressing and we managed to sustain it for the majority of the match.
“The first-half performance was great,” the 50- year- old Argentine told a post- game media conference.
“The concepts we wanted to improve we have improved, but it was nothing new. They were things from the past that we have returned to doing. We scored a goal from pressing high, played both through the middle and on the wings — but we have only just started.”
The goal that arrived as a direct result of Barca’s highpressing was Alves’ third, but it was the pressure exerted by Messi on the Levante backline that recovered possession.
And Martino said he agreed
We put a lot of emphasis on pressing and we managed to sustain it for the majority of the match.”
with his compatriot that it will be better for Messi to rest in the final stages of such one-sided games this season.
“He is very intelligent and we came to an agreement very quickly in this sense. I spoke to Leo a few weeks ago and we chatted about the importance of various matches and he understood that it was good to rest.
“Resting a little in many matches is the equivalent to resting a full game. In a tight game, I wouldn’t take him off. It would be crazy to do so.”
Another of Barca’s star performers on the evening was Cesc Fabregas, who was heavily involved in a number of the goals. Martino stressed he will be an important player this season after the club turned down the advances of Manchester United to keep him at the Camp Nou.
“He had a good preseason tour in Asia and he is very good because he gives us a lot of options. He creates goals and arrives very well into the box.”
Meanwhile, Pedro hailed Martino’s influence in bringing back the intense pressing that was such an important aspect of Barca’s success in the early years of Pep Guardiola’s reign as manager.
“The road is very long, but if we continue on this line then things will go well,” he told Barca TV.
“We are recovering the physical shape and pressing that we possibly lost in the last few years.
“We are on top of the opposition and it makes it very difficult for them.
“We will try to continue like this to achieve more victories.”
In other action, Real Madrid left it late to give Carlo Ancelotti a winning start with a 2-1 win over Real Betis.
It was a far more complicated evening for Real, however, as it needed a headed winner from debutant Isco four minutes from time to take all three points against a spirited Betis.
“I am very happy, above all for the victory,” Isco told Canal Plus afterwards.
“It is the first goal that I have scored with my head.
“The truth is that Betis surprised us a bit but it is the first game of the league; we have to improve a lot but we have just started.”
Atletico Madrid, who faces Barca on Wednesday in the first-leg of the Spanish Super Cup, also began its campaign with a 3- 1 victory away to Sevilla, thanks to a double from Diego Costa.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates a goal against Levante during their Spanish La Liga match in Barcelona on Sunday. Messi tallied twice in his team’s 7-0 victory.