Lionel Messi scored a pair of sensational goals to power Barcelona to a 5-1 victory over Alaves on Saturday night at the Camp Nou.
Each of the goals came off of Messi‘s favoured left foot and both from outside the area in what was a vintage performance from the Argentine. Francisco Trincao also continued his fine run of form with another two goals, while Junior Firpo scored his first Barcelona goal to send the Blaugrana into their midweek Champions League meeting with Paris Saint-Germain on a high.
With PSG looming in midweek and Ronald Koeman without a slew of players due to injury, including centre-back Ronald Araujo, versatile full-back Sergi Roberto and striker Martin Braithwaite, there were some different faces in the Dutchman’s starting XI. After scoring the winner last week at Real Betis, Trincao got the nod, as did youngsters Riqui Puig and Ilaix Moriba in midfield and Junior in defence.
Barcelona started off playing in a rather uncustomary 3-5-2 formation with Junior and Trincao out on the wings and Messi and Griezmann leading the attack.
After some early imprecision, they managed to find a way through shortly before the half-hour mark with a cut-back pass from Ilaix finding the swinging left foot of Trincao, who fired through a sea of legs and into net for a 1-0 lead.
With the goal, Barcelona were able to loosen up the Alaves defence and thought they had made it 2-0 through Messi off a rebound of a Griezmann shot, but VAR overturned the goal.
Messi must have been irritated by VAR taking his goal away, so he promptly took matters into his own hands to score Barcelona’s second right before half-time. It was classic Messi, with the Argentine receiving a ball on the right edge of the area, moving to his left and unfurling a left-footed rocket that banged off the near post and deflected across the goal-line before settling into the side of the net just over the line to make it 2-0.
Koeman made one change during the break, with Sergio Busquets giving way to Samuel Umtiti, meaning Frenkie de Jong pushed back up to his customary midfield place.
Barcelona started slowly in the second half and it exacted a toll, as an ill-advised pass from Ilaix was promptly intercepted by Rioja, who fired into net to cut the Barcelona advantage to 2-1.
Barcelona were keen to regain their two-goal lead and a lovely flick from Griezmann set up Trincao, whose shot was tipped wide by Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco when perhaps a square ball to a wide open Ilaix would have been the better option.
The next change saw Pedri replace Ilaix, followed by Sergino Dest and Miralem Pjanic for Oscar Mingueza and De Jong, respectively. It paid off nicely as Pedri set the table for the third of the night. The 18-year-old midfielder filtered a pass into Messi, who was initially stopped by Pacheco, however Trincao was there to clean up and make it 3-1.
Just like in the first half when he was denied a goal, Messi worked quickly to make up for it and with time and space, he hit an absolute bullet from outside the area that went blazing into the top left corner to extend the Barcelona lead to 4-1.
It was champagne football from Barcelona in the final quarter-hour and a great team build-up ended with Griezmann crossing for Junior Firpo, who finished to polish off the 5-1 scoreline.
5.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mingueza (Dest, min. 72), Lenglet, De Jong (Pjanic, min. 72), Junior, Ilaix (Pedri, min. 64), Sergio (Umtiti, min. 46), Riqui Puig, Trincao; Griezmann (Dembele, min. 81), Messi.
1.- Alaves: Pacheco; Martin (Laguardia, min. 46), Lejeune, Tachi, Duarte; Edgar Mendez, Battaglia, Tomas Pina (Pere Pons, min. 72), Cordoba (Rioja, min. 46); Lucas Perez (Borja Sainz, min. 81), Joselu (Deyverson, min. 81).
Goals: 1-0, min. 29: Trincao; 2-0, min. 45 + 1: Messi; 2-1, min. 57: Rioja; 3-1, min. 73: Trincao; 4-1, min. 75: Messi; 5-1, min. 80: Junior Firpo.
Referee: Figueroa Vazquez (Andalusia).
Yellow cards: Martin (Min. 17) for Alaves, Tachi (Min. 52) for Alaves.
Red cards: None.
Stadium: Camp Nou.