MADRID: Barcelona thrashed Real Sociedad 5-1 at the start of the Spanish league yesterday with two goals from Lionel Messi and one each for Carles Puyol, Pedro Rodriguez and David Villa, in his first game back after eight months out with injury.
The La Liga opener under new coach Tito Vilanova saw Barca 4-1 ahead by half-time with Messi, who has completed his first full pre-season at the club in eight years, in sparkling form.
Real Sociedad did draw level early on with a goal from Chori Castro on nine minutes but Barcelona were too strong and ran out easy winners.
Earlier, Real Madrid stumbled to a 1-1 draw at home against Valencia in the opening match of the league.
Real appeared set to pick up where they had left off last season when Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 10th minute, but Jonas levelled for Valencia in the 42nd to give coach Mauricio Pellegrino a hard-earned draw on his debut.
Cristiano Ronaldo was uncharacteristically subdued and failed to manage a shot on goal. Also, Real Betis defeated Athletic Bilbao in a 5-3 shootout at San Mames stadium after the Basques had fought back from a three-goal deficit to draw level.