Two strokes of genius by Barcelona's Leo Messi and another by Philippe Coutinho in the second half knocked down the defensive barrier that Alaves erected this Saturday at Camp Nou, where the local squad started defending its La Liga title with a convincing 3-0 victory.
Led by the Argentine star, Barca dominated the match from beginning to end, to the extent that it sometimes looked like Alaves was just giving up. Abelardo Fernandez's team seemed trapped in its own end of the field, and had very little control of the ball.
In the first half, Barca held a virtual monopoly of the ball, and if its players lost control of it, they got it back within seconds. And after the second half started, it was all a Barca monologue.
Messi - always Messi - got Barcelona on the scoreboard by forcing a penalty in the area and executing the penalty kick masterfully, with a straight shot that tricked keeper Pacheco and whizzed under the crossbar to make it 1-0 at minute 64.
Then it was the Brazilian Coutinho's turn as he moved into the area and got positioned for a right-footed slam dunk that made it 2-0 seven minutes before the end of the game.
By this time Alaves was visibly deflated and not once put Barca's goalkeeper Ter Stegen to the test. But Barca was smelling blood and Messi piled on another goal at minute 92 after taking an assist from Suarez and left-footing it into the net. And so the score jumped to 3-0 on the last play of the game.
Gines Muñoz / EFE