Lionel Messi scored two goals and set up another on Sunday to help mark the debut of Neymar and Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino in a 7-0 thrashing of Levante, ensuring the Spanish League champion start its title defence in style.
While Barcelona rolled to victory, Real Madrid needed a late header by new midfielder Francisco “Isco” Alarcon to edge out Real Betis 2-1 at home in the first game with Carlo Ancelotti in charge after three season under Jose Mourinho.
Madrid’s lacklustre showing will add more pressure on president Florentino Perez to pay the hefty price Tottenham desires for forward Gareth Bale to reinforce its attack.
Also, Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa did his best to erase memories of Radamel Falcao by scoring twice, including a well-taken go-ahead goal off the break in the 79th minute, to lead a 3-1 win at Sevilla. Granada, meanwhile, won 2-1 at Osasuna. With signature signing Neymar watching from the bench, Messi almost single-handedly dismantled the overmatched Levante.
After Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring, Messi claimed Barcelona’s second goal, stole possession to create the third, and passed for Pedro Rodriguez to score the fourth.
Messi scored his second goal from the penalty spot before Xavi Hernandez made it 6-0 against the visitor to equal a club record of goals in a first half.
Neymar, who has been recovering from anemia since his €57 million move from Santos in the off-season, went on in the second half in time to see Pedro strike again and polish off the lopsided victory.
Messi netted the host’s second goal in the 12th after Fabregas started the move with a nifty chested pass to free up Messi to work a one-two with Pedro before slotting the ball home.
Messi’s defence produced the third in the 24th. The four-time world player of the year chased down David Navarro and stole the ball near the corner flag to begin another weave of passes that ended with Dani Alves knocking in a rebound.
Far from done, Messi showed off his passing skills two minutes later by serving a perfectly weighted long ball for Pedro to fire beyond Navas.
Levante couldn’t help but add to its own demise when Pedro Lopez fouled Adriano just inside the area, letting Messi drill in the spot kick in the 41st.
Xavi poked in the sixth goal in the 45th and Fabregas passed for Pedro’s second goal in the 73rd.
The results: Barcelona 7 (Sanchez 2, Messi 11, 42-pen, Alves 23, Pedro 26, 73, Xavi 45) bt Levante 0; Real Madrid 2 (Benzema 26, Isco 86) bt Real Betis 1 (Molina 14); Osasuna 1 (Punal 58) lost to Granada 2 (El Arabi 38, Yebda 45); Sevilla 1 (Perotti 37) lost to Atletico Madrid 3 (Costa 35, 79, Rodriguez 90+1).