Seven for Barca

Messi scores twice, then rests as team­mates steam­roll Le­vante.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Madrid

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.”

GER­ARDO MARTINO

BARCELONA MAN­AGER

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.

AL­BERT GEA / REUTERS

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.

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