The perfect response from Barcelona as they hit Villarreal for five
BARCELONA // Barcelona, the Primera Liga champions, produced the perfect response to rivals Real Madrid as they overwhelmed Villarreal 5-0 in their opening league match of the season.
A double by Lionel Messi plus goals on their league debuts for summer acquisitions Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez after an opener from Thiago came just a day after Real had thrashed Real Zaragoza 6-0.
Barca's win, though, is an ominous sign for Real Madrid as Villarreal are considered a far stronger side than Zaragoza.
Pep Guardiola, the Barca coach, though, was delighted with the manner in which his side had kept a strong opposition forward line at bay.
"We only had one real defender and the idea was that we would play the ball around with a lot of players in the centre of the pitch," he said.
"Following the Super Cups this was a tough game to start the season and we are very happy. If we had all the players available then maybe I wouldn't have changed the system."
Guardiola praised Fabregas's performance, which again confirmed the early impression that he has fitted in superbly already following the completion of his protracted move from Arsenal.
"You always hope that a new signing adapts and Cesc has an advantage as he is from here and knows the players," said Guardiola.
"He also has another advantage and that is that although he is only 23 he was captain of a good team in England and he has a lot of character."
The Catalan side are in the hunt for their fourth consecutive league triumph and having started the season by lifting the domestic and European Super Cups they showed no mercy against a Villarreal side who spent the match chasing shadows.
On paper Barcelona appeared to have problems with Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique and Dani Alves all missing from the defence but coach Pep Guardiola reverted to a 3-4-3 formation made famous by his mentor Johan Cruyff in the early 1990s.
Thiago and Fabregas, both starting the game in the centre of the pitch, made it 2-0 by half time, while a strike from Villarreal's Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi that went narrowly wide was all the visitors could muster.
Sanchez opened his account for Barca with a goal after the break before a Messi double completed the scoring.
Cristiano Ronaldo had led the way for Real Madrid on Sunday as he scored a hat-trick in the thumping of Zaragoza.
Ronaldo was the joint highest goal scorer with Messi in Spain last season with 53 goals and midway through the first half he put Real ahead by converting a Mesut Ozil pass.
Marcelo quickly added a second as Real peppered the Zaragoza goal.
The home side were never in the contest and in the second half Real's domination was reflected in the scoring with Xabi Alonso (63) and Kaka (81) finding the back of the net along with two more goals from Ronaldo after 70 and 86 minutes.
Along with Villarreal, Valencia are set to be in the hunt for a Champions League place this season and a late double from Roberto Soldado completed his hat-trick and saw Valencia come from behind to beat Racing Santander 4-3.
Published: August 30, 2011 04:00 AM