Barcelona extended their perfect start to the La Liga season with a comfortable 4-1 victory over an under strength and lacklustre Real Sociedad side.
The result maintains Tata Martino’s 100 per cent start to the league campaign, taking full points from all six fixtures to record Barcelona’s best league start in history.
Visiting coach Jagoba Arrasate made seven changes to the side that drew with Malaga on Saturday, with key players Carlos Vela, Ruben Prado and Imanol Agirretxe all sitting out for the clash against the league champions.
Despite a positive start by Sociedad, which saw them strike the woodwork, it was Barca who took the lead when Neymar bundled home from close range following a defensive mix-up.
And Messi doubled their advantage just minutes later, diving in at the back-post to head Neymar’s deep cross past Claudio Bravo in the Sociedad goal.
Martino’s side were somewhat unfortunate to be denied a third shortly after, when Neymar was adjudged to be offside in a move that culminated in Xavi finding the net. Replays showed the Brazilian to be at least a yard onside.
Things went from bad to worse for Sociedad when they lost their captain Xabi Prieto to injury after 21 minutes, forcing coach Arrasate into a change in the centre of midfield.
The hosts had the ball in the net once again after 33 minutes, but this time Dani Alves was denied by the linesman, chesting into the net following a lofted pass from Alexis Sanchez.
Barcelona continued to dominate every aspect of the contest and made it 3-0 through Sergio Busquets before half-time, with the Spanish midfielder lashing into the net from 20 yards.
Arrasate shuffled his defensive line at the break, replacing Daniel Estrada with Jon Ansotegi in an attempt to solidify his shaky backline. However, the change had little impact and Messi could’ve netted twice in quick succession, but missed the target from good positions on both occasions.
A drop in tempo from Barcelona allowed De La Bella to finish from close range after Gerard Pique had given substitute Agirretxe too much time to bring the ball down in the box.
However, any chance of a fightback was extinguished after 77 minutes when Bartra flicked home Messi’s low, driven pass across the face of goal to make it 4-1.
Sanchez remained eager to add his name to the scoresheet, but was denied by the woodwork in stoppage time.