SEOUL: Lionel Messi scored a quick-fire double as Barcelona cruised to a convincing 5-2 win over the K-League All Stars in a friendly at Seoul World Cup Stadium Wednesday.
The Argentinian superstar made his pre-season debut halfway into the game and scored two quick goals, giving his team the spark it needed to notch up an impressive victory.
Barca, dressed in the famous turquoise-coloured strip, looked rusty out of the blocks and were punished after a minute as Choi Sung-Guk scored the opening goal for the K-League All-Stars.
It did not take long for Barcelona to respond, however, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic conjured an equaliser in the sixth minute.
Messi was brought on in the 29th minute to loud applause from the 32,581 crowd.
But his introduction did not stop the K-League All Stars regaining the lead through a header from Lee Dong-Gook in the 36th minute.
That advantage proved short-lived as Messi showed his skills scoring off a pass from Eduard Oriol Garcia in the 42nd minute.
The diminutive Argentinian struck again three minutes later to give his team a one-goal lead at the end of the first half.
Messi and Ibrahimovic sat out the second half but a Barcelona team consisting of reserve players came out in full control and dominated possession with crisp passing.
The K-League All Stars managed to create a few chances but Victor Sanchez Mata added a goal in the 80th minute and Eduard Oriol Garcia scored three minutes later.
Messi`s appearance in the friendly had been in doubt.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola had said Tuesday that Messi -- whose World Cup ended in disappointment as Argentina were humbled 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals -- would not feature as he had just returned from holiday and was not match-fit.
However, following a hastily-arranged meeting with the promoters, the Catalan club issued a statement saying that Messi would play a role after all.
"The promoters of the tournament and Barcelona representatives held a meeting in which the matter of Leo Messi playing in the match was raised," read the statement.
"In the light of the good progress shown by the player in the last training session and that there will be another one before the match, the coaching staff believe that it is fine for the Argentinian striker to play for a few minutes of the match."
Comments in the Spanish press claimed that Messi`s appearance came only because he was compelled to play for at least half-an-hour under the terms of the tournament contract -- otherwise Barcelona would receive no money.
BDST: 2225HRS, August 4, 2010