LIONEL MESSI scored Barcelona’s 6,000th La Liga goal with a wonderful free-kick as the reigning La Liga champions saw off Alaves at the Nou Camp.
It took just over an hour before the deadlock was broken by the Argentine, who saw another free-kick crash against the crossbar just before half-time.
Getty Images – Getty Lionel Messi scored Barcelona’s first goal of the new season with a brilliant free-kick
Philippe Coutinho added a second late on to secure the three points with a fine, individual effort before Messi grabbed himself a second in the dying seconds.
It was not a vintage Barcelona performance but a simple enough victory to kick-start their campaign for a fourth league title in five years.
It was a quiet opening 35 minutes at the Nou Camp as Ernesto Valverde’s side struggled to find their usual fluency on what was a very wet pitch.
Messi had the game’s first chance after just three minutes in as he latched on to Ivan Rakitic’s ball over the top of the Alaves defence but the Argentine dragged his right-footed shot wide.
The game then exploded into life in the minutes leading up to half-time. From a free-kick on the edge of the box, Messi crashed the underside of the bar.
Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco was nowhere near it as the ball bounced down on to the line and away before Gerard Pique headed over the rebound.
AFP OR LICENSORS Lionel Messi cut a frustrated figure during the goalless first half
Getty Images – Getty The Argentine came within centimetres of opening the scoring but saw his free-kick crash against the bar Lionel Messi pulls off greatest nutmeg ever… but is it all it seems?
Ousmane Dembele came close to finding the net on the stroke of half-time but the Frenchman sliced wide when teed up by Jordi Alba.
Philippe Coutinho was introduced at half-time into an unfamiliar central midfield role alongside Rakitic and Sergio Busquets, rather than the left-wing role he has normally been deployed in since his January switch from Liverpool.
With just over an hour played, Messi finally got the breakthrough for Barcelona, their 6,000th in La Liga.
He stepped up to another free-kick in an identical position to the one in the first half, almost as it was a dress rehearsal, and intelligently waited for the wall to jump and rolled it effortlessly underneath and into the back of the net.
AFP or licensors Messi went low with the second free-kick and found the back of the Alaves net
AFP OR LICENSORS He celebrates Barcelona’s 6,000th La Liga goal