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Messi does it all, Barca romps in Neymar's debut

Sunday - 8/18/2013, 4:26pm  ET

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, from Argentina, left, reacts after scoring a penalty against Levante during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Lionel Messi scored two goals and set up another Sunday 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.

With signature signing Neymar watching from the bench, Messi almost single-handedly dismantled 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 just before halftime.

Neymar, who has been recovering from anemia since his $76 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.

The applause Neymar received when 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.

Those eager to see Neymar and Messi together were disappointed, however. The two were only on together for seven minutes before Martino sent Andres Iniesta on for Messi.

The 21-year-old Neymar was active on the left flank but couldn't find his new teammates with crosses.

Martino was hired in a rush last month to replace Tito Vilanova after he announced he was stepping down to focus on his fight against a recurrent throat tumor. But despite a hectic preseason and little preparation time, Barcelona's talented squad made the Argentine manager's first game in Europe an easy stroll.

On Sunday night, Carlo Ancelotti was to charge of a Real Madrid team embarking on a new era after three seasons under Jose Mourinho in a match against Real Betis.


LONDON (AP) -- Jose Mourinho enjoyed a euphoric Chelsea homecoming on Sunday, and Tottenham put aside the turmoil surrounding Gareth Bale's future by also making a victorious start to the Premier League season.

Chelsea ripped apart Hull inside 25 minutes at Stamford Bridge, with the goals from Oscar and Frank Lampard securing a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.

While Lampard had earlier missed a penalty, Roberto Soldado had no such trouble from the spot for Tottenham to score on debut and clinch a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.

Tottenham eked out the win without the team's most potent attacking threat, with Bale injured -- and being pursued by Real Madrid.

Sunday's pair of results completed a miserable weekend for the league newcomers, with Cardiff also failing to score in a 2-0 loss at West Ham on Saturday.

Mourinho was welcomed onto the pitch by cheers from the Chelsea fans delighted to see the end of Rafa Benitez's interim reign. They were denied an early goal to celebrate, with Frank Lampard's spot kick saved after six minutes.

Oscar, though, found the target in the 13th, slotting the ball under goalkeeper Allan McGregor after Belgium duo Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard combined.

Lampard made amends for his penalty miss with a superbly taken free kick that dipped and swerved over McGregor into the net in the 25th.

Branislav Ivanovic appeared to have headed in a third on the stroke of halftime, but the newly introduced goal-line technology confirmed that the ball failed to cross the line.

Despite Hull posing more of a threat in the second half, Chelsea did the hard work before the break and can now goes into the next game of the season against Aston Villa on Wednesday as a club united once again.

Mourinho is looking to add to the Premier League titles he won during his 2004-07 spell at Chelsea, which did manage to win the league in his absence as well as the Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League as the club went through seven different managers.


BERLIN (AP) -- Borussia Dortmund substitute Jonas Hofmann scored one goal and earned a penalty in an unconvincing 2-1 win over promoted Eintracht Braunschweig in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

Hofmann broke the deadlock with 15 remaining when he played a one-two with Mats Hummels and scored off the far post from a tight angle.

The 21-year-old midfielder went down under Ermin Bicakcic's challenge to earn the penalty. Marco Reus converted the spot kick in the 86th minute.

Braunschweig's consolation in the 89th came from Kevin Kratz, though his effort from Mirko Boland's corner took a deflection off Robert Lewandowski.

Also Sunday, Hiroshi Kiyotake struck late to salvage a 2-2 draw for Nuremberg over Hertha Berlin, denying the newly promoted visitors two wins from two games.

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