Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has escaped a lengthy ban for lashing out at Athletic Bilbao's Asier Villalibre in Sunday's Spanish Super Cup final defeat and will only serve a two-game suspension. The Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) said on Tuesday Messi had been banned for two matches, meaning he will miss Thursday's Copa del Rey last-32 tie at Cornella and Sunday's La Liga match at Elche. He is set to return to face Bilbao in the league on January 29.
Barca said they will appeal the ban. The Argentine was sent off at the end of extra time in the Super Cup final, which Barca lost 3-2, for striking Villalibre in the face.
He would have faced a sanction ranging from four to 12 matches had the RFEF`S competition committee described the incident as aggression but it was instead reported as "violence during play", which is punished with a two to three game ban.
It was the first time in 754 matches that Messi had been sent off for Barcelona. He has received two red cards while playing for Argentina, including on his debut back in 2005.
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 toward the box. Villalibre immediately fell to the ground and after a video review, Messi was given his first red card in 753 appearances for Barcelona.
Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with "excessive force" while the ball was not near him.