Barcelona kicked off their title defence with a 3-0 victory over Alaves at the Camp Nou on Saturday night, with Lionel Messi scoring twice.
Barcelona 3 Alaves 0
Messi hits woodwork in both halves
Messi (64′) slots free-kick under wall
Coutinho (83′) scores trademark goal
Messi (90′) wraps up win with fine effort
Messi opened the scoring with a clever free-kick in the second half and he could have had a hat-trick, but struck the woodwork twice before sealing the win in stoppage time.
Philippe Coutinho stepped off the bench to double the Blaugrana’s lead late on as they made a winning start to the new campaign.
Messi looked sharp from the get-go and had an early chance when he latched onto a long pass from Ivan Rakitic in the third minute and fired wide of the far post with his right foot from a narrow angle on the right.
The Argentine forward looked to set up Jordi Alba three minutes later with a cross to the back post from the right, but the Spanish left-back could only hit the side-netting.
Fernando Pacheco was called into action for the first time on 16 minute after Alaves gave the ball away outside their own area, with Messi curling an effort into the keeper’s grasp from 20 yards out.
The visitors had their one and only sniff at goal in the first half moments later when Ruben Sobrino steered a stooping header wide of the near post from Manu Garcia’s cross on the left.
Luis Suarez threatened at the other end soon afterwards as he curled a shot high and wide of the far post from 16 yards out on the left, while Ousmane Dembele scuffed an effort past the right post after being played in by a neat pass from the Uruguayan striker on the left just after the half-hour mark.
Rakitic then went close with a glancing header that flew beyond the far post from Messi’s cross on the right in the 36th minute, before the latter curled a free-kick onto the crossbar from 20 yards out and Gerard Pique headed over on the rebound two minutes later.
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Ernesto Valverde’s side continued to push for an opener before half-time and Dembele forced Pacheco into a routine save from 17 yards out after being slipped in by Messi. The French forward was presented with another chance in the 44th minute after connecting with Alba’s low cross from left, but he directed the ball across the face of goal.
The Catalan giants continued the dominance in the second half and Messi curled a free-kick over the bar from 20 yards out on the right in the 58th minute, although he made no mistake with his next opportunity six minutes later.
The Barca youth product went under the wall this time and caught out Pacheco to slot his free-kick inside the right post.
Messi almost scored again two minutes later as he combined with Suarez on the right and curled a shot against the left post from 14 yards out.
A rare chance for the Basque Country club saw Adrian Marin shoot wide of the left post on 79 minutes after a set-piece fell to him inside the box.
But two goals in the final seven minutes put the result beyond doubt. First, Coutinho collected the ball from fellow substitute Arthur on the left and ran at the defence before burying his shot beyond Pacheco from 14 yards out.
Messi then capped off a fine individual display at the death as he controlled a lofted cross from Suarez inside the box and shifted the ball to his left before beating Pacheco at his near post from seven yards out.