HONG KONG: Lionel Messi needed just six minutes to make his mark in Argentina's 7-0 rout of Hong Kong in a friendly at Hong Kong Stadium on Tuesday.
The Barcelona star Messi scored twice after going on as a substitute for the last 30 minutes of the game to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Hong Kong Football Association.
Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain and Benfica's Nicolas Gaitan also scored two goals each after Sevilla's Ever Banega had opened scoring in the 19th minute.
Argentina started the match with many of its stars, including Messi and English Premier League players Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta all on the bench.
But it hardly made a difference as the Argentina attack shredded the hapless Hong Kong defense, showing no ill effects from the loss to Brazil in smog-ridden Beijing three nights earlier.
"The match against Brazil was important and it gave us some questions which we will need to answer in the future. But tonight the teams are on a different level and we played the way we are supposed to," Argentina coach Gerardo Martino.
Messi thrilled the 20,000-strong crowd six minutes after entering the game when he figured in a sublime one-two before neatly chipping the ball over Hong Kong goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai.
The Argentine captain then turned provider when he threaded the ball between two defenders for Gaitan to tap in. He scored again after beating three defenders before hammering home a low shot.
Even the appearance of a Chinese fan on the pitch failed to ruffle Messi. The man, wearing an Argentine shirt, ran straight toward Messi holding out a pen. Messi coolly accepted the pen and signed the shirt before the fan was pounced on by security guards who marched him away.
The football centenary celebrations happened against a background of civil unrest in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy activists clashed with police and barricaded a tunnel near the government headquarters late Tuesday, expanding their protest zone again after being cleared out of some other streets in the latest escalation of tensions.
The student-led protesters are now in their third week of occupying key roads and streets in Hong Kong's business district.