Barcelona, 19 August
Lionel Messi scored two goals and set up another to help mark the debut of Neymar and Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino in a 7-0 thrashing of Levante, ensuring the Spanish champions start their title defense in style. While Barcelona rolled to victory yesterday, Real Madrid needed a late header by new midfielder Francisco “Isco” Alarcon to edge out Real Betis 2-1 at home in the first game with Carlo Ancelotti in charge after three season under Jose Mourinho. Madrid’s lackluster showing will add more pressure on president Florentino Perez to pay the hefty price Tottenham desires for forward Gareth Bale to reinforce its attack.
Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa did his best to erase memories of Radamel Falcao by scoring twice, including a well-taken go-ahead goal off the break in the 79th minute, to lead a 3-1 win at Sevilla. Granada, meanwhile, won 2-1 at Osasuna. With signature signing Neymar watching from the bench, Messi almost single-handedly dismantled the overmatched Levante.
After Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring, Messi claimed Barcelona’s second goal, stole possession to create the third, and passed for Pedro Rodriguez to score the fourth. Messi scored his second goal from the penalty spot before Xavi Hernandez made it 6-0 against the demoralized visitors to equal a club record of goals in a first half. Neymar, who has been recovering from anemia since his 57 million move from Santos in the offseason, went on in the second half in time to see Pedro strike again and polish off the lopsided victory.
“We saw great football and great goals in the first half,” said Neymar. The applause Neymar received while warming up grew to a standing ovation when he went on for Alexis in the 64th for his first official minutes in Barcelona’s burgundy and blue.
Tevez on target: Carlos Tevez marked his Juventus debut with a goal as the Serie A champions thrashed Lazio 4-0 in the Italian Super Cup on Sunday.
Klose&’s call: Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who is set to break Gerd Mueller’s goal-scoring record, said he will retire from international football after next year’s World Cup.