BARCELONA, (Reuters) – Lionel Messi made amends for a missed first-half penalty by scoring both goals as Barcelona won 2-0 at Alaves yesterday and Atletico Madrid grabbed their first La Liga win of the campaign by thrashing Las Palmas 5-1.
Messi, 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.
The five-times world player of the year 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 ruthless shot into the bottom corner to kill off Alaves.
In Las Palmas, Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco scored inside five minutes to put Atletico on their way to a drubbing, with Koke adding two impressive strikes after the break.
Thomas Partey completed the rout after the home side’s striker Jonathan Viera had a penalty saved by Jan Oblak.
Barca, who suffered a shock home defeat by Alaves in the third week of last season, headed to the Basque country without Luis Suarez, although their morale was boosted by the signing of Ousmane Dembele.
Andres Iniesta returned from injury to give them more stability in midfield but a lapse in concentration from Gerard Pique gave Alaves a golden opportunity to take the lead.
It was one of two scares in an otherwise comfortable win for Barca and Valverde praised his side for a professional display in defiance of the gloomy atmosphere around the team following Neymar’s departure.
“We came here at a time when people are saying a lot of things about Barca, and that can have a negative impact. But the team showed that was not the case,” the coach told reporters.
“We’ve had some difficult moments and we’ve overcome them. Now we’ve got six points and we’re moving on upwards.”
Zinedine Zidane’s son, Enzo Fernandez, made his Liga debut as a late substitute for Alaves but was unable to help the Basque side get back into the game.
Paulinho made his Barca debut when he came on in the 88th minute while Messi was denied a hat-trick when his effort from outside the area bounced off the bar.
Diego Simeone’s side, who last week fought back from two goals and a man down to draw 2-2 at Girona, came flying out of the blocks and took the lead in the second minute when Argentine Correa rushed past three defenders and grabbed his second goal in as many games.
Belgium international Carrasco doubled the visiting side’s advantage with an arrowed shot which flew past goalkeeper Leandro Chichizola and into the far corner.
Jonathan Calleri struck his first goal for Las Palmas in the second half with a header, only for Koke to strike with an impressive curled finish and the Spain midfielder produced an acrobatic overhead kick to make it 4-1 in the 75th minute.
Partey’s late strike saw Atletico hit five goals away to Las Palmas for the second season in a row.
“The game was very good from our point of view, we started with energy, dynamism and we knew where we could cause them damage,” Simeone said.
“We helped ourselves by taking an early advantage and then it was a totally different game. We managed the game in the best way possible in the second half.”
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.