Lionel Messi hit the post three times as Barcelona opened their La Liga campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Real Betis.
The 30-year-old, who was looking for his 350th goal in the competition, was denied by the woodwork before the break and twice after it as Betis goalkeeper Antonio Adan enjoyed good fortune at the Nou Camp.
However, an evening on which the club paid tribute to the victims of last week’s terror attack in the city before kickoff ended in satisfactory fashion for the Catalan giants with Alin Tosca’s own goal and a second from Sergio Roberto handing new manager Ernesto Valverde victory in his first league game at the helm.
Stung by their 5-1 aggregate Spanish Super Cup defeat by arch-rivals Real Madrid, Barca, whose players wore the word “Barcelona” on the backs of their shirts rather than their own names, might have taken the lead with less than three minutes gone when Gerard Deulofeu stabbed a shot wide from close range after being picked out by Sergio Roberto.
Messi whipped a left-footed effort wide seconds later with the visitors firmly on the back foot, and then curled a 14th-minute free kick on to the roof of the net.
The Argentinian went even closer with a swerving 25th-minute shot, and was then denied by the post 10 minutes later with his shot having comprehensively beaten Adan.
However, Barca took the lead within seconds when defender Tosca turned Deulofeu’s cross into his own net, and it was 2-0 six minutes before the break.
Javier Mascherano’s superbly-timed challenge on Leon Limones sparked a lighting break which ended in emphatic style when Roberto steered Deulofeu’s cross into the net.
Messi went close once again on the hour when he ended a scintillating run with a curling left-foot shot which once again clipped the foot of the post with Adan helpless.
Barca were rampant, but their Argentinian superstar’s luck had for once deserted him with the woodwork coming to Betis’ rescue for a third time with nine minutes remaining, this time repelling his blistering rising drive.
Gareth Bale scored one goal and set up another as Real Madrid started their title defence with a confident 3-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna.
Madrid were without suspended talisman Cristiano Ronaldo for the trip to the Riazor, but it made little difference to the European champions as they reclaimed their familiar place atop the standings at the end of the opening weekend.
Bale notched the opener in the 20th minute and another close-range tap-in, this time from Casemiro seven minutes later, saw Real in control before the half-hour was up.
Bale then assisted Toni Kroos for Real’s third goal just after the hour to complete the scoring, although there was still time for some late drama with Depor striker Florin Andone missing a penalty before Real saw captain Sergio Ramos sent off.
Getafe keeper Vicente Guaita was the hero as 10-man Getafe left Athletic Bilbao with a hard-earned point.
The Primera Liga new boys played the final 24 minutes with a numerical disadvantage after midfielder Alvaro Jimenez had been sent off for a second bookable offence, and they might even have emerged with all three points had it not been for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s save from Markel Bergara’s early header.