Barça took the game to their opponents from the very first whistle at the Reale Arena. The first shot on goal didn’t come until the 10th minute, Leo Messi, making a record-breaking 768th appearance, going close. The visitors had been incredibly incisive in their passing and movement to that point, forcing La Real back at every opportunity.
An exceptional work-rate from Barça also ensured that the hosts were kept at arms length until Alexander Isak worked Marc-André ter Stegen for the first time in the 23rd minute. Possession of 72 percent for the Catalans at that stage of the game told its own story, although as the half wore on La Real looked to get a foothold.
Barça stepped things up once again. In a mesmerising passage of play, Sergiño Dest forced Álex Remiro to tip the ball onto the crossbar and in the next phase, some quick feet between Messi and birthday boy, Jordi Alba, eventually saw a chance worked to Antoine Griezmann to make no mistake against his old club.
Ter Stegen was called upon once again on 38, another outstanding stop from Isak keeping Barça’s advantage intact. It proved to be a pivotal moment as in the lead up to half-time Messi found Dest to fire home a well-deserved second.
Isak was again involved in the first action of the second half, his cross at the end of a driving run not finding its intended target. On 52, Dest added a third for Barça that owed everything to Jordi Alba’s persistence in getting behind the host’s defence before delivering an inch-perfect cross.
The game was then ended as a contest before the hour with Sergio Busquets playing Messi in down the middle to make it 0-4.
Ousmane Dembélé looked to have made it five with an incredible finish on 65 minutes, VAR cutting the celebrations short for the most marginal of offsides. The linesman flag could do nothing to curtail the Frenchman’s joy five minutes later, however, a brilliant solo run followed by a left-footed finish to bring up the fifth.
With 13 to play Barrenetxea fired home a wonderful consolation, and a late flurry from the hosts was more due to Barça allowing themselves to take their foot off the pedal as time ran out. The visitors would still have the final word after a quick break saw Messi score the sixth on the night and his 700th counting official games and friendlies.