x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Messi inspires Atletico rout

When Atletico Madrid arrived at the Camp Nou on Saturday night, on the back of a winless start to the season to play the kings of Spain and Europe, they must have a been thinking "well at least it can't be as bad as last season". It nearly was.

When Atletico Madrid arrived at the Camp Nou on Saturday night, on the back of a winless start to the season to play the kings of Spain and Europe, they must have a been thinking "well at least it can't be as bad as last season". It nearly was. On October 4, 2008, Barcelona demolished their opponents. They were three up after eight minutes, five ahead with less than half a hour gone. It ended 6-1, an early pointer to the trophy-laden season that was to follow (they achieved a domestic and European treble and beat rivals Real Madrid, 6-2 away, on a magical El Clasico evening).

On Saturday, it was almost Groundhog Day. Pep Guardiola's side were two up after 16 minutes, three ahead by the half-hour mark. It ended 5-2. Whether the result will again be a precursor to a season of glory remains to be seen, but Barca look like a well-oiled juggernaut. Atletico, despite their talent-laden squad, are underachieving once again. The writing always looked like it was going to be on the wall for Abel Resino's side. Traditionally, this fixture is as near as you can get to a guaranteed goal feast. Last season's game at the Vicente Calderon ended 4-3 to Atletico.

"It was a strange match perhaps down to the way both teams played," said Guardiola. "I think that if we had not had that level of intensity we would not have won. Both sides attacked but we were not clever enough with the ball. We did not take enough advantage of the way their defence pushed up. We need to play the ball around more and wait for openings to develop." Barca got off to the perfect start when summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged his third goal in as many league starts after just two minutes at the Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi, who signed a new contract on Friday to remain at the club until 2016, then made it two after a quarter of an hour before a Dani Alves free-kick and a close-range Seydou Keita strike put the Catalans into a four-goal lead before half-time. Sergio Aguero pulled a goal back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time and Diego Forlan added a second for Resino's side late on. But Barcelona's win was never in doubt and Messi grabbed a fifth deep into added time for the Catalans.

Atletico now have just one point from three league games and also started their Champions League campaign with a 0-0 draw at home to Cypriot minnows Apoel Nicosia. Manager Resino was bitterly disappointed with his side's display, telling Marca: "We lacked the intensity that is required against a team like Barcelona. By the time we started passing the ball, we were already losing 2-0. They scored four goals with their first five shots.

"The consolation is that we attacked more in the second half." Resino then looked ahead to Wednesday's game against Almeria at the Calderon. "We have to forget this because we have another game on Wednesday," he said. "Tomorrow we must lift our head up. There is no time for depression." * With agencies