Lionel Messi’s hat-trick and a header from Gerard Pique gave Barcelona a 4-0 win over Ajax this evening.
Tata Martino handed Neymar a start in his first ever Champions League match, whilst Cesc Fabregas played in midfield after Xavi was dropped to the bench. Blaugrana loanee Bojan meanwhile, lined up for the Eredivisie side.
In the first ever official match between these European giants, it was Barca who, predictably, got off to the brighter of the starts. The home side were dominating possession, and creating chances too, as Neymar forced Kenneth Vermeer into a smart save.
The Dutch team were happy to sit back and try to catch the hosts on the break, but that gameplan was to come unstuck on 22 minutes, when a free kick from Messi curled past the goalkeeper and nestled in the back of the net.
Frank De Boer’s weren’t going to sit back and accept defeat however, and created two superb chances soon after. First Siem De Jong’s cross found Ricardo Van Rijhn, whose diving header forced Victor Valdes into a diving save. And then good play from Kolbeinn Sigthorsson led to a shot from Lerin Duarte, but he couldn’t beat the Barca keeper.
After the break, the visitors continued to press for an equaliser. But they were shown how to do it by that man Messi again, who punished Ajax for their profligacy.
A quick break from Sergio Busquets found the Argentine attacker, who cut inside on his left foot, and struck past Vermeer.
The Camp Nou side were hungry for more though, and they got it with 20 minutes to go when Neymar’s superb cross was met by Pique, who headed in for 3-0.
The night belonged to Messi however, and the little man slotted home from the edge of the area late on to score his third and Barca’s fourth.
Barcelona 4-0 Ajax
Scorers: Messi 22, 55, 75 (B), Pique 69 (B)
Barcelona: Valdés, Alves, Piqué (Bartra 80), Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Cesc (Xavi 71), Iniesta, Messi, Neymar (Pedro 71), Alexis
Ajax: Vermeer, Van Rhijn, Moisander (Van der Hoorn 74), Poulsen, Duarte, Sigthorsson, De Jong (Serrera 59), Bojan, Boilesen, Blind (Schone 78), Denswil