The first game of FC Barcelona’s Liga title defence was very much a reminder of what a difficult competition this is to win. Ernesto Valverde had warned that the Alavés nut is a tough one to crack, and the Catalans were indeed pushed to the very limit.
A three-goal win against one of the more modest outfits in the division looks comfortable enough on paper. But those goals all came in the last half hour… with the name of a man who needs no introduction whatsoever on everyone’s lips.
When the opener finally came, it was also the 6,000th goal in the club’s Liga history. And just like goal 5,000 eight years earlier, it came from a moment of magic from a man who scored a simply staggering 6.4% of that all-time tally!
After already rattling one terrific free-kick onto the bar, he fooled everyone, not least the Alavés defence, by waiting for the wall to jump and then cheekily slipping the ball beneath their feet.
Leo Messi. You just never know what to expect next from the GOAT!
Until then it had all been one-way traffic in the direction of Fernando Pacheco’s goal. But getting that total supremacy reflected on the scoreboard was proving very tricky indeed. Ousmane Dembélé and Luis Suárez, the latter making his 200th competitive appearance for the club, were not short of chances, but the final touch just wasn’t there.
But once Messi had finally got his team off the mark, the three points never really looked in doubt. Alavés had defended admirably but brought little else to the table. A mere 20% of the possession and just two shots (neither on target) were no cause for alarm.
The game was put to bed once and for all when the other substitute, Philippe Coutinho, curled in a beauty from the edge of the area. A stylish, composed finish from the Brazilian, and for the tenth year in a row, Barça were heading for opening day victory!
With the very last kick of the game, Messi added another – chesting down a Suárez pass and rounding two defenders before slotting home masterfully.
Despite all the summer changes, Valverde stuck to the old guard to start with, but both Arturo Vidal and Arthur got to make their Liga debuts later on in the proceedings.
Alavés had battled well. But in the end, Barça had proved just too good. The first three points are in the bag!