Barcelona, Sep 27 (efe-epa).- Barcelona drubbed Villarreal 4-0 on Sunday at Camp Nou Stadium, the Catalan team’s home turf, before empty stands due to coronavirus restrictions.
Although the team finds itself mired in speculation about what may happen when Lionel Messi ultimately leaves the squad – as he has already informed the team he wants to do, although he was forced to stay on, at least for now – the Argentine icon scored one goal and helped his teammates cruise to victory in its La Liga opening match under their new coach: Ronald Koeman.
Ansu Fati was brilliant and may fill some of the huge gap left after Messi departs, whenever that might be, with the 17-year-old firing goals in the 15th and 19th minutes.
Messi later scored a penalty kick in the 35th minute and also was involved in the own-goal by Pau Torres – when Torres tried to intercept a crossing shot by the Argentine but flubbed it – just before the break, thus giving the team its four tallies.
Messi had a few additional chances to score, but was unable to hit the net, yet all in all it was a great debut for Koeman’s team and yet another magnificent showing for the Argentine in his first official game with the Catalans since the team refused his request to depart during the off-season. Although he was clear and direct in his public statements against the club, he has promised to give his all during what he – presumably – hopes and expects to be his final year with the squad.
After Quique Setien was dumped from the coaching spot following Barcelona’s terribly embarrassing 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals in August, Koeman – the former Netherlands national team coach – was brought in to recraft the squad, wasting no time giving the boot to Barca scoring legend Luis Suarez, who went to Atletico Madrid, where he scored two tallies in that team’s outing against Granada on Sunday.
Fati, meanwhile, has just about everything needed to succeed – and has been touted as such – and he did not disappoint in Sunday’s match, scoring first with help from Jordi Alba and just minutes later finding the net again on a pass from Philippe Coutinho.
All the scoring action took place before the break, and after the intermission Barcelona seemed to slack off a bit, while their rivals upped their game after a pair of substitutions.
But it wasn’t enough, and Koeman took advantage of the insurmountable lead to send Fati to the bench 20 minutes before time, replacing him with Pedri, who made his debut in La Liga action, and Miralem Pjanic and Francisco Trincao were also sent in off the bench for their first-time outings with the team.
Barcelona: Neto; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets (Pjanic, min.78), Frenkie de Jong; Messi, Ansu Fati (Dembele, min.70), Coutinho (Pedri, min.70); Griezmann (Trincao, min.78).
Villarreal: Asenjo; Mario Gaspar, Torres, Albiol (Funes Mori, min.83), Estupiñan; Coquelin (Triguero, min.46), Parejo, Chukwueze (Kubo, min.74), Moi; Gerard Moreno (Bacca, min.83) and Paco Alcacer (Iborra, min.46).
Goles: 1-0: Ansu Fati, min.15. 2-0: Ansu Fati, min.19. 3-0: Messi (p.), min.35. 4-0: Torres (p.p), min.45.
Referee: Cuadra Fernandez showed a yellow card to Gerard Moreno (min.83).