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Messi handed two-game ban for red card hit

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has been handed a two-match ban for lashing out against an Athletic Bilbao opponent but he’s escaped a more lengthy suspension.

The punishment was confirmed by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) on Tuesday.

Messi received a red card after he struck Asier Villalibre in the face late in the Spanish Super Cup final defeat.

He will now miss Thursday’s last-32 Copa del Rey game away to Cornella and Sunday’s La Liga trip to play Elche.

The Barcelona captain escaped a lengthier ban.

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 while playing for Barcelona.

He has received two red cards while playing for Argentina, including on his debut back in 2005.

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