Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi given two-match ban for red card

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 serve only a two-game suspension.

The Spanish football federation (RFEF) said yesterday Messi had been banned for two matches, meaning he will miss their Copa del Rey last-32 tie at Cornella on Friday morning and Sunday's La Liga match at Elche. He is set to return to face Bilbao in the league on Jan 29.

Barca said they will appeal the ban.

The Argentinian 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".

It was the first time in 754 matches that Messi had been sent off for Barcelona. - REUTERS