BARCELONA: Lionel Messi missed a penalty but rebounded by scoring his record 350th La Liga goal in Barcelona’s 2-0 win at Alaves on Saturday.
Messi also scored the second in leading the club to their second consecutive victory to start the league.
Without new signing Ousmane Dembele, who completed the second most expensive transfer ever by moving for 105 million euros ($125 million) from Borussia Dortmund on Friday, or the injured Luis Suarez, Messi ensured Barca didn’t lose any early ground in the title race despite a tumultuous start to the campaign off the field.
The five-time World Player of the Year, who hit the woodwork three times but failed to score in last week’s 2-0 win over Real Betis, endured further frustration when his spot-kick was parried away by Fernando Pacheco in the 41st minute after Gerard Pique was fouled.
However, Messi wasn’t to be denied as he broke the deadlock with a scrappy effort in the 55th minute that took a heavy deflection off Alaves defender Alexis Ruano and then showed his class with a sweetly-struck volley into the bottom corner to kill off Alaves.
“We’re happy because we have overcome a difficult test,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde. “We’ve overcome difficult moments, we have six points and we can now move forward.”
ATLETICO THRASH LAS PALMAS
Elsewhere, Koke scored a sensational double as Atletico Madrid made light of Antoine Griezmann’s absence through suspension to register their first win of the campaign with a 5-1 rout of Las Palmas.
Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco got the visitors off to the perfect start in the Canary Islands inside five minutes.
Jonathan Calleri briefly gave Las Palmas hope with a towering header after the break, but Atletico instantly replied when Koke curled into the top corner from 25 yards.
The Spanish international then produced an acrobatic overhead kick from close range before Thomas Partey’s drive rounded off the scoring after the home side’s striker Jonathan Viera had a penalty saved by Jan Oblak.
Girona picked up their first win in the top flight by beating Malaga 1-0, while Levante, who also won promotion last season, came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to Deportivo La Coruna.