A first-half hat-trick by Lionel Messi ensured Barcelona maintained their 100 per cent start to the La Liga campaign with a thrilling 3-2 win over Valencia as Real Madrid also made it three wins from three games on Sunday.
Messi had Barça 2-0 up inside 39 minutes and was then brilliantly set up by Neymar to complete his hat-trick just before the break. However, Valencia were amazingly back in the game by half-time as Helder Postiga struck twice in first-half stoppage time.
Barça then passed up a host of chances to put the game to bed in the second-half and were nearly punished when Jonas struck the post four minutes from time.
Neymar had already had a goal ruled out for offside when Cesc Fabregas sprung Valencia’s high line with a fine through ball on ten minutes and Messi evaded challenge from Adil Rami and Diego Alves to bundle home from close range.
Victor Valdes was then forced into a fine save to deny Dorlan Pabon levelling on his debut for Los Che. But just when it appeared Valencia were in control of the game, Barça struck twice in two minutes.
Firstly, Sergio Busquets robbed the ball in midfield to allow Fabregas to set Messi free again to roll into the far corner. And then a wonderful piece of individual skill from Neymar teed-up the Argentine to side foot home his 23rd hat-trick for the Catalans.
Valencia responded wonderfully though and were back in the game before half-time thanks to Postiga’s double.
The Portuguese international produced a stunning overhead kick to turn Joao Pereira’s cross into the top corner qnd moments later the former Tottenham Hotspur man rose highest to flick home Ever Banega’s corner.
The frantic pace continued after the break as Messi forced Alves into a stunning save from the edge of the area before Pedro somehow managed to head wide from Andres Iniesta’s cross from point-blank range.
Messi was next to let Valencia off the hook as he unbelievably pulled his shot wide after more great work from Neymar and Jordi Alba down the left and then fired straight at Alves when clean through on goal.
And the champions were nearly made to pay for their profligacy as Jonas’ curling effort from the edge of the area was brilliantly turned onto the post by Valdes.
Earlier, Real Madrid continued their unblemished start under new manager Carlo Ancelotti with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao at the Santaigo Bernabeu. Isco was the hero for the hosts as he opened the scoring with a neat finish from Karim Benzema’s lofted pass.
Cristiano Ronaldo then headed in his first goal of the season from Angel Di Maria’s free-kick and Isco’s deflected effort made the game safe for Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Ibai Gomez pulled a late goal back for Athletic, but it mattered little as Madrid ensured their best start to the league campaign in four years.
However, the visitors were thankful to Thibaut Courtois for the three points as the Belgian produced two stunning saves after Xabi Preito had reduced Sociedad’s arrears 22 minutes from time.