Barcelona off to a winning start against Alaves
Lionel Messi scores brace as champions begin title defence in fine style at Nou Camp
Lionel Messi scores his second and Barcelona’s third against Alaves. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty
Barcelona 3 Alaves 0
Lionel Messi scored twice as LaLiga champions Barcelona beat Alaves 3-0 at the Nou Camp in their opening match of the new season.
Messi, who saw his Argentina side fail to make an impact at the World Cup in Russia, returned to club action in determined mood and had rattled the crossbar with a first-half free-kick.
The Barcelona captain, taking the armband following the departure of Andres Iniesta, eventually broke the deadlock when his clever low free-kick flew under the wall in the 64th minute.
Substitute Philippe Coutinho added a well-taken second before another fine bit of individual skill from Messi wrapped things up in stoppage time.
Messi had set his intentions out early on, drilling a shot wide after being played clear by Ivan Rakitic.
The playmaker then released Jordi Alba, but the defender could only find the side-netting.
Alaves tried to offer some threat from set-pieces, before Ruben Sobrino headed wide.
Barca, though, almost broke the deadlock after 38 minutes when Messi’s curling 25-yard free-kick crashed against the crossbar and Gerard Pique nodded the rebound over.
Ousmane Dembele saw his shot saved before Luis Suarez’s flick was cleared off the line as the visitors held out to half-time.
The home side continued to press following the restart, but initially struggled to find a cutting edge in the final third.
Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen showed some neat footwork when dashing out of the penalty area to chip the ball up over Jony Rodriguez as the Alaves forward darted clear.
After 64 minutes, Messi was brought down some 25 yards out for a free-kick in a dangerous position on the right.
Rather than look to aim for the top corner, the Argentinian instead clipped a low shot along the ground as Alaves’ players in the wall jumped, and the ball flew under the keeper.
The well-crafted effort was a fitting way to mark Barcelona’s 6,000 LaLiga goal.
It was almost 2-0 soon afterwards when Messi clipped his shot against the post after being found by Suarez.
Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco saved from substitute Coutinho at point-blank range, but was finally beaten again in the 83rd minute.
The Brazilian created it himself, turning in the penalty area past two defenders and then curling the ball into the far corner.
In stoppage-time, Messi completed the rout after taking a pass from Suarez into the left side of the penalty area on his chest before spinning to dispatch the ball inside the post.