Lionel Messi dispelled any fears of a World Cup hang-over by scoring twice as Barcelona opened their defence of the La Liga title with a 3-0 win over Elche at the Nou Camp last night.
Messi, who looked drained at the end of Argentina’s defeat to Germany in the World Cup final in Rio last month, gave Barça the lead in the 42rd minute after bewitching the visitors’ defence with a superb turn and mazy run before stroking the ball home into the far corner.
Things looked to be going smoothly for Luis Enrique in his first game as coach but the home side were suddenly reduced to 10 men when Javier Mascherano was sent off on the stroke of half time for bringing down Garry Rodrigues when he was through on goal.
Yet any hopes of Elche launching a fightback were undone at the start of the second half when 18-year-old striker Munir El Haddadi, playing in the place of the injured Neymar, raced past a square defence to score from new Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic’s through ball.
Messi again exposed the Elche rearguard when he made it three in the 64th minute, holding off several challenges and making space to score with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area.
Also in Spain, Eibar marked their first ever game in the top flight with a 1-0 home victory over Basque rivals Real Sociedad. Javi Lara scored the winner for Eibar, who were playing in the third tier two seasons ago, with a dipping free-kick.
In the Netherlands, champions Ajax were shocked at home by PSV Eindhoven. Anwar el-Ghazi had put Ajax 1-0 ahead at half time but an equaliser from Memphis Depay, once a transfer target for Tottenham, sparked a PSV revival and goals from Luciano Narsingh and Florian Jozefzoon sealed a famous victory.