BARCELONA — Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez marked their home debuts for Barcelona in La Liga with goals as the football champions crushed Villarreal 5-0 in their opening match of the campaign on Monday.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi scored twice and Spain Under-21 midfielder Thiago Alcantara was also on the scoresheet for Barça in their bid for a club record-equalling fourth consecutive Spanish title.
The victory was an impressive response to title rivals Real Madrid after Jose Mourinho’s side inflicted a 6-0 demolition on Real Zaragoza on Sunday when Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo netted a hat-trick.
After dominating the early stages, Barça were ahead on 25 minutes at a sultry Nou Camp. As Alcantara ran at the Villarreal defence they backed off waiting for a pass, allowing him space to shoot low past Diego Lopez into the corner of the net.
Former Arsenal captain Fabregas, who returned to his boyhood club this month after eight years with the Premier League side, made it 2-0 just before halftime when he raced on to a Messi pass, rounded Lopez and slotted home.
Chilean Sanchez, another new signing after his close-season move from Udinese, put Barça three up two minutes after the break before Andres Iniesta played Messi through to round Lopez and make it 4-0 five minutes later.
The Argentina forward grabbed a second and Barça’s fifth when he turned in Alcantara’s fine centre with 15 minutes left.
La Liga kicked off a week late after the first round of matches fell victim to a strike called by the players’ union (AFE) over unpaid wages. The dispute with the league (LFP) was finally resolved last Thursday.
Fabregas described playing with Messi as “awesome”.
“It’s a pleasure playing with him,” Fabregas told reporters.
“You know you can give him the ball at any moment and he’ll decide the match on his own. It’s awesome.”
The pair, both 24, already look to have created a formidable partnership as Barça seek a fourth straight Spanish league title and a third Champions League crown in four years this season.