BARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi and Barcelona gave newly promoted Leganes a ruthless welcome to the Spanish league on Saturday.
Messi repeatedly combined with Luis Suarez and Neymar as Barcelona eased to a 5-1 victory in its first ever visit to Leganes, a small club from southern Madrid playing its maiden campaign in the first division.
The more than 10,000 blue-and-white clad fans who packed Butarque Stadium witnessed the cold hard truth of playing against the best of the top flight.
Messi scored twice, once from the penalty spot, giving him five goals in two matches in a five-day span.
The win came before Barcelona clashes with Atletico Madrid, which matched the defending champion’s win with a 5-0 thrashing of Sporting Gijon.
Boisterous at kickoff, the cheers from the Leganes crowd diminished with each goal until Gabriel Appelt gave them reason to celebrate when he scored from a free kick with 10 minutes remaining.
By that time the result was long beyond doubt, following additional goals from Suarez and Neymar that Messi played a part in setting up before Rafina struck Barcelona’s fifth from distance.
“Our fans demonstrated how much love they have for this team,” Appelt said. “(But) you make even the smallest little mistake and they punish you.”
Last weekend, Barcelona left Messi and Suarez on the bench against Alaves, only to see the promoted side snatch a rare 2-1 win at Camp Nou.
Coach Luis Enrique started Messi and Suarez, and they linked with striker partner Neymar to outclass their hosts.
“After the loss to Alaves we had to win today so we could confidently face the match against Atletico,” Suarez said. “I don’t care which one of us scores as long as it helps the team.”
Playing just its fourth match in the top flight in its 88-year history, Leganes opted to be daring when facing the five-time European champion.
Leganes had reason to trust coach Asier Garitano, who led it up from the third division to the first in only three years. The team started the season with a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo and a 0-0 draw against Atletico.
Its high defensive line, however, only left Barcelona’s big three with plenty of room to romp.
“I’m not worried. This can happen in the first division,” Garitano said. “We took risks. We had the plan to pressure them and perhaps catch them expecting us to sit back. That team is so, so good.”
Leganes joined Real Madrid and Atletico as the third team from the Spanish capital in the top division, following the relegation of Getafe and Rayo Vallecano last season.
ATLETICO MADRID 5, SPORTING GIJON 0
Antoine Griezmann ensured Atletico’s home match against Sporting Gijon was a similar, one-sided affair.
The France forward scored twice for the second consecutive league match.
Kevin Gameiro netted his first goal from open play for Atletico, while Fernando Torres went on as a second-half substitute and scored twice, including one penalty.
“It’s good that we all chip in, that those who come off the bench also do their part,” Torres said. “Now is a good moment to visit Barcelona.”
EIBAR 1, SEVILLA 1
For a second week in a row, Eibar fought back to earn points after having its goalkeeper sent off.
Sevilla was up a goal and a man when Yoel Rodriguez saw a direct red for fouling Carlos Correa a minute before halftime.
But Eibar continued to create more attacks than Sevilla, and Pedro Leon leveled to cancel out Luciano Vietto’s opener in the 64th.
Eibar finished with nine men after Dani Garcia also earned a red card for an ugly foul on Vietto.
In the last round, Eibar fought back to beat Granada 2-1 after goalie Asier Riesgo was sent off.
LAS PALMAS 1, MALAGA 0
Las Palmas continued its strong start by beating Malaga thanks to Jeronimo “Momo” Figueroa’s early penalty.
The Canary Island club’s third win in four rounds lifted it into third place, behind Barcelona and Real Madrid, which visits Espanyol on Sunday.