Barcelona extended their winning run in La Liga to seven games as Lionel Messi and Francisco Trincao both bagged a brace in a 5-1 home victory over Alaves.
Ronald Koeman handed Trincao his first league start of the season after scoring the winning goal off the bench against Real Betis the previous weekend, while 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba also made his debut.
The hosts started well and took the lead just before the half hour mark when Trincao scored his second goal in a week, sweeping home a low finish after being set up by Ilaix inside the area.
The future of El Clasico? It’s in the midfield
Barca looked to have doubled their advantage when Messi converted a rebound from an Antoine Griezmann chance only for VAR to be used to spot a marginal offside from the French forward.
Messi did, however, find the net on the stroke of half time with a trademark whipped, left-footed finish from outside the box that struck the inside of the near post and gave Dani Pacheco no chance.
Messi 'excited and happy' at Barcelona - Koeman
Alaves gave themselves a lifeline just before the hour mark, making the most of a loose pass from Ilaix to race through the centre of the Barcelona defence, with substitute Luis Rioja tucking a low shot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The fightback didn’t last long, though, as two goals in two minutes, first from Trincao and then from Messi, saw Barcelona take a firm grip of the match again.
Riqui Puig, Griezmann and Messi were involved in the build up to Barca’s fifth goal, scored by Junior Firpo, as the Catalans secured the points needed to move them back up to second place in La Liga, eight points behind pace-setters Atletico Madrid.
TALKING POINT - Ronald Koeman has re-established the link with La Masia
This season has been a difficult one for Barcelona. The Catalans have struggled for consistency throughout the campaign and are perceived by many to have been out of the title race since before Christmas. But one area where Koeman has succeeded is in the re-establishment of the link between the Barcelona first team and the famed La Masia academy. This match saw the Catalans start with five academy products, with Ilaix handed his full debut. Barcelona needed young talent and Koeman has done his part to integrate it.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Messi provided the highlight of the whole match with a trademark finish off the inside of the post right at the end of the first half. The Argentine had found the back of the net just moments before only for VAR to chalk it off and then repeated the trick with a similar sort of goal in the second half. Messi was Barcelona’s main danger man, as is almost always the case, and he could have finished this match with more than two games to show for what was a brilliant performance. This was vintage Messi.
Barcelona - Ter Stegen 7, Mingueza 8, De Jong 6, Lenglet 5, Junior 7, Puig 6, Busquets 7, Moriba 7, Trincao 8, Messi 9, Griezmann 8. Subs - Umtiti 5, Pjanic 5, Dest 5, Dembele 4, Pedri 7.
Alaves - Pacheco 8, Martin 6, Lejeune 5, Tachi 5, Duarte 5, Edgar 6, Battaglia 6, Pina 5, Cordoba 4, Perez 7, Joselu 5. Subs - Deyverson 3, Laguardia 5, Pons 4, Rioja 7, Sainz 5.
29’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Alaves: Trincao has scored his second goal in a week! Mingueza's cross from the right caused an issue for Alaves. Ilaix controlled at the back post and then set up Trincao for the shot and the Portuguese forward found the back of the net!
39’ GOAL RULED OUT! The officials have looked at the tape and have decided that there was an offside in there against Griezmann, although the replays aren't exactly clear on where that offside was. Messi’s goal doesn’t stand.
45+1’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Alaves: That was vintage Messi! What a goal that was! The 33-year-old cut inside on to his left foot, lined up the effort and then fired a low strike into the back of the net off the inside of the near post! Pacheco couldn't do anything about that! Wow!
58’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-1 Alaves: A lifeline for Alaves in this match! Ilaix gave up the ball and that allowed Rioja to race through the centre of the Barcelona defence and find the back of the net with a calm and composed low finish past ter Stegen. That was far too easy!
74’ GOAL! Barcelona 3-1 Alaves: Trincao has his second goal of the night and Barcelona surely have the points in the bag now! Messi was released through, Pacheco makes the save, but Trincao was on hand to finish into the back of the empty net! Game over.
75’ GOAL! Barcelona 4-1 Alaves: Two goals in two minutes! And it's another classic Messi moment! Mingueza fed the pass to the Argentine who cut inside on to his left foot and curled a strike into the back of the net from just over 20 yards out! Game definitely over now!
At 18 years and 25 days old, Ilaix Moriba became the youngest player to register an assist on his full La Liga debut for Barcelona.
Francisco Trincao has now scored in back-to-back La Liga appearances for Barcelona.
Barcelona have now won seven straight games in La Liga.
Ole's at the wheel and United are all over the place - The Warm-Up
Newcastle, Man Utd, Man City and Arsenal battle for £50m Calvert-Lewin - Paper Round