Messi scores Barcelona’s 6,000th league goal in opening win

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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MADRID (AP) Barcelona scored its 6,000th goal in the Spanish league after another ingenious strike by Lionel Messi got its title defense off to a winning start.

Messi cleverly sent his free kick underneath Alaves’ wall to open the scoring in the 64th minute of Barcelona’s 3-0 win at Camp Nou Stadium on Saturday. He also closed the scoring in injury time after substitute Philippe Coutinho had added to the lead in the 83rd.

Messi’s low free kick fooled Alaves’ players, who jumped to intercept an expected high shot. Goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco couldn’t get to the ball in time after it suddenly appeared underneath the barrier.

“Messi never fails to surprise you,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Messi, the league’s top scorer last season, had struck the crossbar with a free kick – this time over the wall – in the first half. He also hit the post from inside the area a few minutes after his opening goal.

Messi also scored Barcelona’s 5,000th league goal back in 2009.

Barcelona has opened its league campaign with a win for the 10th straight season.

Messi’s second goal came in the second minute of injury time, an easy shot from close range after a breakaway.

Barcelona had missed chance after chance in its league debut at Camp Nou, which was far from packed with around 52,000 fans for the 10:15 p.m. start local time.

Ousmane Dembele, who started up front with Messi and Luis Suarez, squandered a series of chances, including a one-on-one with goalkeeper Pacheco in the first half.

Valverde brought Coutinho off the bench in the second half and the Brazil playmaker added the team’s second goal after a nice play that culminated with an easy strike from inside the area.