MADRID, (Reuters) – Gerardo Martino enjoyed his competitive debut with Barcelona more than Carlos Ancelotti’s with Real Madrid as the La Liga champions stormed to a 7-0 demolition of Levante in their season opener at the Nou Camp yesterday.
Real had to come from behind against Real Betis for a 2-1 win at the Bernabeu, new 30 million euro signing Isco heading an 86th-minute winner.
Jorge Molina had put the lively visitors ahead in the 14th minute only for Karim Benzema to level in the 26th.
At the Nou Camp, World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and Spain striker Pedro both scored twice, while new 57 million euro signing Neymar started on the bench and came on as a 63rd-minute substitute with the game already resolved.
Barca made a whirlwind start, scoring six times before halftime as the team responded to Argentine Martino’s calls for greater intensity in their pressing game and a more direct approach.
“The debut exceeded all my expectations,” Martino told a news conference as he insisted he had not made any changes to the way the team played. The outstanding Cesc Fabregas squared for Alexis Sanchez to tap in the opener in the third minute, and Messi exchanged passes with Pedro to stroke in the second.
Dani Alves struck the third after another slick passing move on the edge of the area, and Pedro, who started wide on the left of the attack keeping Neymar on the bench, bagged the fourth.
Adriano was felled for a penalty in the 42nd which Messi fired home and Fabregas set up Xavi with an extravagant looping pass over the defence for the sixth, just before the break. A limp display from the cash-strapped visitors, under new coach Joaquin Caparros, could only look to a string of saves from goalkeeper Keylor Navas as any sort of positive.