BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi and Barcelona gave newly promoted Leganes a rude welcome to the Spanish league on Saturday.
Messi repeatedly combined with Luis Suarez and Neymar as Barcelona eased to a 5-1 victory in its first ever visit to Leganes, a small club from southern Madrid playing its maiden campaign in the first division.
The more than 10,000 blue-and-white clad fans who packed Butarque Stadium witnessed the cold hard truth of playing against the best of the top flight.
Messi scored twice, and hit the post, giving him five goals in two matches in a five-day span.
Boisterous at kickoff, the cheers from the Leganes crowd diminished with each goal until Gabriel Appelt finally gave them reason to celebrate when he scored from a free kick with 10 minutes remaining.
By that time the result was long beyond doubt, following additional goals from Suarez, Neymar, and Rafina, who struck Barcelona's fifth from distance.
"Our fans demonstrated how much love they have for this team," Appelt said. "(But) you make even the smallest little mistake and they punish you."
Last weekend, Barcelona left Messi and Suarez on the bench against Alaves, only to see the promoted side snatch a rare 2-1 win at Camp Nou.
Coach Luis Enrique started Messi and Suarez, and they linked with striker partner Neymar to outclass their hosts, and maintain Barcelona's form before Wednesday's match against title rival Atletico Madrid.
"After the loss to Alaves we had to win today so we could confidently face the match against Atletico," Suarez said. "I don't care which one of us scores as long as it helps the team."
Playing just its fourth match in the top flight in its 88-year history, Leganes opted to be daring when facing the five-time European champion.
Leganes had reason to trust coach Asier Garitano, who led it up from the third division to the first in only three years. The team started the season with a 1-0 win at Celta Vigoand a 0-0 draw against Atletico.
Its high defensive line, however, only left Barcelona's big three with plenty of room to romp.
"I'm not worried. This can happen in the first division," Garitano said. "We took risks. We had the plan to pressure them and perhaps catch them expecting us to sit back. That team is so, so good."
The easy win was a continuation of Barcelona's dominant week after thrashing Celtic 7-0, when Messi scored three times.
Leganes joined Real Madrid and Atletico as the third team from the Spanish capital in the top division, following the relegation of Getafe and Rayo Vallecano last season.