Ronald Koeman led Barcelona to an emphatic 4-0 victory over Villarreal in his first match in charge of the Camp Nou club.
44 days after Barca’s catastrophic 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich, the Catalans put a turbulent summer behind them to start their title challenge with a show of strength, scoring all four goals in the first half.
Ansu Fati opened the scoring after just 15 minutes, lashing home a powerful side-foot finish after being set up by Jordi Alba, before adding a second four minutes later, sliding a low shot past Sergio Asenjo at the near post following a through ball by Philippe Coutinho.
Lionel Messi netted his first goal of the season from the penalty spot, with Ansu felled in the box by Mario Gaspar. A Pau Torres own goal put Barcelona four goals to the good before the break, inadvertently turning a Messi cross into his own net.
Pedri, Ousmane Dembele, Francisco Trincao and Miralem Pjanic were introduced in the second half, but the match had already been settled as a contest by then, with Barcelona starting their title challenge in style.
Lionel Messi and Ansu Fati, Barcelona v Villarreal
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT - Ronald Koeman’s new shape looks a good fit for Barcelona
An entire era of Barcelona’s history has been defined by 4-3-3. However, the exit of Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid means this formation is no longer the best fit for the Catalans, with Koeman using a 4-2-3-1 shape for this match. With Antoine Griezmann up front, Ansu on the left, Coutinho through the middle, Messi on the right and Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets as deep-lying double pivots, there was a genuine balance to Barca’s team. Koeman could be on to something.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Ansu Fati (Barcelona)
If this was truly the beginning of a new era for Barcelona, it was somewhat symbolic that it started with an Ansu brace. The 17-year-old is much more than just a speed merchant, showing composure well beyond his years to find the back of the net twice within the opening 20 minutes. Ansu won the penalty kick from which Messi scored and was a threat throughout. What a talent Barcelona have on their hands.
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Barcelona - Neto 6, Roberto 6, Pique 5, Lenglet 5, Alba 7, Busquets 6, De Jong 6, Messi 8, Coutinho 7, Fati 9, Griezmann 6. Subs - Pjanic 7, Trincao 6, Dembele 5, Pedri 5.
Villarreal - Asenjo 8, Gaspar 4, Albiol 5, Torres 4, Estupinan 5, Chukwueze 5, Parejo 4, Coquelin 5, Gomez 5, Moreno 4, Alcacer 4. Subs - Bacca 3, Kubo 7, Funes Mori 4, Iborra 5, Trigueros 6.
15’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Villarreal: What an outrageous finish! Alba was released to the byline down the left, he cut the pass back for Ansu and the 17-year-old side-foots a powerful finish high into the Villarreal net! He did such a good job of controlling that finish! A great goal!
19’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Villarreal: It's that man (kid) again! Barcelona came flying forward on the counter attack, Coutinho fed the pass out to Ansu and the teenager had no trouble in sliding home a low finish at the near post! There was never any question over whether he would convert that chance!
35’ GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Villarreal: Messi steps up to the 12-yard mark after Ansu won the penalty kick and the Barcelona number 10 makes no mistake in squeezing his shot underneath Asenjo. That wasn't the best penalty from Messi, but it got the job done and Barca might already be out of sight.
45’ GOAL! Barcelona 4-0 Villarreal: It's a fourth Barcelona goal before half time! It's an own goal! Messi floated a cross into the middle with Busquets of all people making the run into the six yard box, but Pau stretches out a leg and diverts the ball into the back of his own net!
Lionel Messi has now scored in 17 consecutive La Liga seasons for Barcelona
Ansu Fati has scored seven goals in his last nine starts in all competitions for Barcelona and Spain
At 17 years and 332 days old, Ansu Fati became the youngest player from Europe’s top five leagues to score 10 or more goals in all competitions since the start of last season