Lionel Messi suspended 2 matches for hitting opponent

January 20, 2021
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi during the Spanish Supercopa final match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao at La Cartuja stadium in Seville, Spain, on Sunday, January 17.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi during the Spanish Supercopa final match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao at La Cartuja stadium in Seville, Spain, on Sunday, January 17.

MADRID (AP):

Lionel Messi avoided a tougher sanction and was suspended for only two matches yesterday after hitting an opponent in an incident away from the ball in the Spanish Super Cup final.

The Barcelona forward was facing a suspension of up to 12 matches for swinging his arm at an Athletic Bilbao player at the end of the team's 3-2 loss on Sunday. The Spanish football federation's competition committee did not deem the incident to be too serious and applied a less severe penalty. The committee also fined the club EU700 and Messi EU600.

Barcelona said they would appeal Messi's suspension.

After passing the ball out to the left flank, Messi swung his right arm at the head of Athletic forward Asier Villalibre as they ran towards the box. Villalibre immediately fell to the ground and after a video review, Messi was given his first red card in 753 appearances with Barcelona's main squad.

Messi had been sent off twice while playing for Argentina's national team, including a few seconds into his debut in a friendly against Hungary in 2005. The other time was in the 2019 Copa America in a match against Chile. He was also sent off once while playing for Barcelona's 'B' team.

Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with "excessive force" while the ball was not near him

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