MADRID: Lionel Messi scored twice – his first goal being Barcelona’s 6,000th in the Spanish league – as the reigning champions made a winning start to the new season with a 3-0 win over Alaves.
Barca came closest to opening the scoring in a quiet opening 30 minutes, with Luis Suarez, making his 200th appearance for the club, firing just over the crossbar.
Messi, who also scored the club’s 5,000th league goal in 2009, fired a free-kick against the bar after 38 minutes but the game remained goalless at the break.
Philippe Coutinho came on for Nelson Semedo at the start of the second half but it was Messi who broke the deadlock in the 64th minute, firing a low free-kick under the wall and into the bottom corner.
Brazilian Coutinho added a second seven minutes from time, collecting the ball on the edge of the area and showing some quick feet before curling home.
Messi slotted in a third in the first minute of stoppage time to seal a routine win and display a return to form after Argentina’s poor showing at the World Cup.
Former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla was a surprise name in Villarreal’s starting XI against Real Sociedad, playing 72 minutes of a 2-1 defeat.
The Yellow Submarine opened the scoring after 15 minutes when Gerard Moreno collected the ball out wide on the right and raced into the area before cutting back to beat two defenders and drilling a shot past the goalkeeper.
Willian Jose levelled for Sociedad in the 39th minute as he took advantage of a sliced clearance from ex-Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori to run on and smash home.
More poor defending allowed the visitors to make it 2-1 through Juanmi’s well-placed shot from outside the box with 20 minutes remaining.
The introduction of new signing Carlos Bacca could not inspire Villarreal as the visitors held on.
Iago Aspas earned Celta Vigo a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Espanyol.
The visitors took the lead just before the break through Mario Hermoso, who slammed the ball home from a corner.
But Celta Vigo were back on level terms early in the second half when Aspas converted a cross from left-back Junior Alonso.
Maxi Gomez was denied a winning goal by newly-introduced VAR.