A superb performance from Ansu Fati powered Barcelona to a 4-0 victory in their 2020-21 LaLiga Santander season opener against Villarreal on Sunday night at the Camp Nou.
The 17-year-old bagged a brace and won a penalty to guide the Catalonians to a full three points in Ronald Koeman's official debut as Barcelona coach. Playing in his first match in the post-Luis Suarez era, Lionel Messi converted the penalty set up by Fati before a Villarreal own goal rounded out a complete first half performance from Barcelona.
Koeman's first official starting XI saw Philippe Coutinho and Fati in attack, along with Messi and Antoine Griezmann, while Frenkie De Jong and Sergio Busquets were tabbed as the holding midfielders.
Immediately Barcelona went to work on the right side of the Villarreal defence, looking to utilise the speed and incisiveness of Jordi Alba and Fati and those two would connect to hand the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Clement Lenglet played a fantastic long ball up to the charging Alba, who then cut back for Fati and the youngster hit it on the screws, directing his right-footer into the net.
Soon enough it was 2-0 and again with Fati landing the fatal blow. Barcelona played out of the back with aplomb, allowing Coutinho to marshal a break that ended with a simple pass over to Fati and another strong finish from the Spain international.
Fati was the star of the show and later in the half he set the table for Barcelona's third by receiving a pass and using his movement to draw a foul from Mario Gaspar in the Villarreal area, resulting in a penalty.
Messi stepped up and stroked home the spot kick under Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo to give La Pulga his first goal of the season and his first smile in ages.
Barcelona's football was flowing nicely and Coutinho nearly made it four in the final stages of the first half, only to be denied on a fine save by Asenjo.
The Villarreal goalkeeper was left helpless, though, moments before the break when a deep Messi cross intended for Busquets was unintentionally redirected into the Villarreal net by Pau Torres to gift Barcelona a 4-0 lead.
Villarreal managed to tighten things up in the back in the second half to keep Barcelona at bay, but going forward there was little that the Yellow Submarine were doing to trouble Neto in the Blaugrana goal.
Koeman's first two changes saw 17-year-old Pedri make his Barcelona debut, coming on for Coutinho, while Ousmane Dembele replaced Fati to freshen things up.
That was then followed by Trincao and Miralem Pjanic making their Barcelona debuts when they replaced Griezmann and Busquets, respectively, with a little less than a quarter-hour to go.
Despite their best efforts, a fifth goal was not in the cards for Barcelona, including a probing Messi strike that required a save from Asenjo. In the end though, it was a welcomed performance for a team trying to turn the page and forget about its turbulent summer.
4.- Barcelona: Neto, Sergi Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba, De Jong, Busquets, Griezmann (Trincao, min. 78), Ansu Fati (Dembele, min. 70), Coutinho (Pedri, min. 70), Messi.
0.- Villarreal: Asenjo, Mario, Albiol (Funes Mori, min. 84), Pau, Estupinan, Parejo, Coquelin (Iborra, min. 46), Chukwueze (Kubo, min. 74), Moi, Gerard Moreno (Bacca, min. 84), Alcacer (Trigueros, min. 46)
Goals: 1-0, min. 15: Fati; 2-0, min. 19: Fati; 3-0, min. 35: Messi (p); 4-0, min. 45: Pau (og)
Referee: Cuadra Fernandez (Balear).
Yellow cards: Gerard Moreno (Min. 83) for Villarreal. Red cards: None
Stadium: Camp Nou