Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

Lionel Messi hits super strike as Barcelona seal friendly win over Girona – in pictures

Argentine hits double, including superb finish from outside the box, to secure his first goals since threatening to leave the club

Lionel Messi was back in the usual routine for Barcelona as he scored twice in a 3-1 friendly win over Girona on Wednesday.

Philippe Coutinho struck the crossbar early on before giving Barca the lead midway through the first half, tapping into an empty net after excellent link play between Messi and new signing Francisco Trincao.

Five minutes before half-time, a Coutinho run and finish almost doubled Barca’s tally, Juan Carlos parrying the shot away from goal. A one-handed save also stopped Messi from netting from a free-kick.

But the Argentine was not to be denied. He doubled Barca's advantage right on half-time, spinning away from a defender before thumping a brilliant shot in off the post from outside the penalty area to score for the first time since threatening to leave the club last month.

Samu Saiz scored for Girona right at the start of the second period but Barca's captain struck again in the 50th minute, again cutting inside to shoot from outside the area but this time benefiting from a heavy deflection.

New manager Ronald Koeman made four changes to the line-up that had beaten Gimnastic de Tarragona 3-1 in his first friendly game on Saturday and made nine substitutions midway through the second half at the Johan Cruyff Stadium, only keeping on defender Ronald Araujo and goalkeeper Neto.

This was a better display than against Gimnastic, with Messi looking much sharper, causing the opposition problems throughout.

Teenager Pedri was Barca's liveliest substitute and had three attempts on goal after coming on, forcing Carlos to make two smart saves, while American forward Konrad de la Fuente also impressed.

Watching the game from the stands was Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whose position is under significant threat as a motion to trigger a no-confidence motion in his reign has surpassed 90 per cent of its target.

The role of Bartomeu at Barca has come under great scrutiny in recent times following a trophyless campaign combined with Messi’s attempted forced exit from the club, which the board blocked.

Earlier on Wednesday, La Liga president Javier Tebas said he was pleased Messi had stayed at Barcelona.

"Messi is important for our competition," said Tebas, at an event to promote the Liga sticker collection. "He is a player who was born in our competition ... and hopefully he will finish his career in our league."

Barca play promoted La Liga side Elche in their final pre-season game on Saturday before beginning their La Liga campaign the following weekend at home to Villarreal.

Updated: September 17, 2020 07:55 AM

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