Reigning La Liga champions Barcelona began the defence of their title in fine fashion, beating Alaves 3-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday night.
Barcelona’s 2018-19 La Liga campaign was off to a flying start as they beat Deportivo Alaves 3-0 in their opening game, courtesy of a Lionel Messi brace and a goal from Philippe Coutinho.
The first goal took a while to come for the Blaugrana with the visitors putting in a dogged and disciplined defensive performance. However, Messi managed to break the deadlock in the 64th minute with a clever free-kick before Coutinho, who came on as a substitute at half-time, doubled the lead with a brilliant strike in the 83rd minute.
With the game all wrapped up, Messi added a third goal late in stoppage time to heap further misery on Alaves and bag all three points on the opening weekend of the season. Here’s how the Barcelona stars fared on the day.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 18, 2018
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
The German international showcased his skills with the ball at his feet, producing a brilliant dink over an Alaves player after making an interception. Had little to do in terms of saves on the night, with the visitors hardly threatening the Barcelona goal. Dealt with a couple of dangerous looking crosses comfortably, passed well from the back.
Nelson Semedo: 6/10
The Portuguese full-back started off well, defending strongly and looking to get forward at every possible occasion. Unlucky to be subbed off at half-time as Valverde introduced Coutinho to add more creativity to his side’s attacking play.
Gerard Pique: 7/10
The Spaniard, who recently announced his international retirement, had a pretty comfortable outing at the heart of the defence on Saturday. Made a crucial block on Ruben Sobrino’s effort in the first period. Headed over the bar at the other end, but passing out from the back was sharp and precise.
Samuel Umtiti: 6.5/10
The French World Cup winner hadn’t had a lot of pre-season training behind him, having returned late following his exploits with the national team. However, Umtiti was hardly troubled on Saturday as Alaves did not offer much in the attacking sense. Dominated the battle against Sobrino, distributed well. Steady start to the season.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
The Spanish full-back showed great attacking intent and purpose down the left-hand side. Seemed to carry a threat each time he went on his forward forays and could have gotten his name on the scoresheet on three occasions. But, Alba failed to make them count as he hit the side netting once, fired a shot straight at the goalkeeper and had another effort deflected wide.
Sergio Busquets: 6/10
Seemed to have been given more creative responsibilities by the manager as he looked to get involved a little higher up the pitch than usual. Calm and collective in possession as always and alert to every little threat that the visitors posed on the break.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
Starting in the middle of the park, the academy graduate wasn’t all that effective. Roberto lacked that sharpness and was let down by heavy touches at times. Moved to right-back post the half-time break after Coutinho’s introduction. Improved and looked much more purposeful after the switch.
Ivan Rakitic: 5.5/10
The Croatian international was handed a start in the middle by the manager, ahead of summer signings Arthur and Arturo Vidal. While he showed flashes of brilliance, playing some eye-catching forward passes, there were also signs of rust following his extended run in the World Cup. Lost the ball cheaply at times and did not offer a lot of creativity.
Messi's stats against Alavés:
100% dribbles completed
81% pass accuracy
73 passes completed
10 duels won
3 fouls won
5 key passes
3 big chances created
7 long balls completed
4 shots on target
2 shots hit woodwork
Rating? 10/10. The best player in the world. pic.twitter.com/ee1aHtVv3W
— Stats (@centrestats) August 18, 2018
Lionel Messi: 10/10
New season, same old Messi. Just another day in the office for the little magician as he single-handedly inspired Barcelona to a victory once again. Created chances aplenty for his teammates and hit the woodwork twice. Opened the scoring with a cheeky free-kick, which was also Barcelona’s 6000th La Liga goal. Added another late on in the game. Masterclass.
Luis Suarez: 5/10
The Uruguayan has been in scratchy form throughout the pre-season and that continued on Saturday night. Heavy touches and misplaced passes were a big feature of his disappointing display against Alaves, while he failed to convert promising chances as well. Played a sensational pass to set Messi up for the third goal, but still found wanting.
Ousmane Dembele: 7/10
Carried on from where he left off against Sevilla in the Super Cup, as he ran at defenders with great drive and looked to cause problems each time he did so. However, the end product wasn’t always there to back it up. Spurned a couple of great opportunities to find the back of the net, but still a very encouraging performance from the Frenchman, who looks set for a big season this time out.
Philippe Coutinho: 8/10
A surprise exclusion from the starting lineup. But, Coutinho came on to replace Semedo at half-time and immediately added more creative spark to Barcelona’s attacking play. Killed the game with a very well-taken goal to make it 2-0.
Made his La Liga debut, replacing Dembele in the 77th minute. Was a positive presence and got the assist for Coutinho’s strike. Encouraging signs.
Arturo Vidal: N/A
Came on to replace Busquets for the final five minutes to make his La Liga bow.