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Messi brace helps Barcelona beat Seattle 4-0

LIONEL Messi scored the opening two goals as Barcelona beat the Seattle Sounders 4-0 in a preseason friendly yesterday.

In a dominant performance by the reigning European champions, Barcelona required its top players for only half the game to beat the Major League Soccer club and extend their winning preseason form.

Messi beat Seattle keeper Kasey Keller in the 21st minute with a left-footed punch from outside the penalty box that the former Tottenham stopper only got a fingertip on.

Twenty minutes later, Messi gathered Xavi's perfectly judged cross about 8 yards out and in one move split Keller's legs with his left foot shot.

Messi's preseason form indicates he will pick up right where he left off at the end of a 2008/09 season when he scored 38 goals as Barcelona won the unprecedented treble of Champions League, Spanish Liga and Spain's Copa del Rey.

Many in the crowd of 66,848, the largest to see a football match in Seattle, craved more of Messi and fellow Barca stars Thierry Henry and Xavi, but only got one half as coach Pep Guardiola carefully tunes up his squad.

Barcelona beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 last Saturday and will wrap up the three-match trip on Sunday against Mexico's Guadalajara in San Francisco.

Wednesday's win was tarnished by the loss of central defender Rafael Marquez, who tore his left calf muscle in morning training and will miss 10 to 15 days. As well as compromising his preparation for the approaching season, it also means Mexico's captain will likely miss a key home World Cup qualifier against the United States on Aug. 12.

Barcelona outshot Seattle 16-3, peppering Keller the entire first half with precision, creative passing leading to a constant flow of scoring attempts. Henry had scoring chances, as did emerging 18-year-old Bojan Krkic. Messi nearly netted a hat trick, but his chip shot past a charging Keller in the 39th minute hit the far post and stayed out.

The scoring was completed by fringe squad members Jeffren Suarez in the 75th minute and Pedro Rodriguez in the 89th.

The match meant little to Seattle, which has an important MLS game on Saturday at Real Salt Lake. That's why regulars like Keller and Freddie Ljungberg played just the first half. Former Arsenal winger Ljungberg, who missed last Sunday's MLS match at San Jose after dealing with a migraine during last week's MLS All-Star game, had Seattle's best scoring chance early in the match.

Barcelona reserve keeper Jose Manuel Pinto let a sloppy pass roll up the middle of the penalty area and right to Ljungberg's feet. The Swedish star settled the ball, but his right-footed shot went wide. The Sounders, who lost to Chelsea 2-0 in another friendly on July 18, have scored just one goal in five matches.


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