Lionel Messi struck twice as FC Barcelona claimed their first away win of the season in some style against FC BATE Borisov.
Josep Guardiola's side had drawn their previous three games on their travels 2-2, but the run never looked likely to continue in this UEFA Champions League Group H fixture. The home side only had themselves to blame for first-half goals from Pedro Rodríguez and Messi after Aleksandr Volodko had put through his own net. They could do nothing about Messi's second of the night, with David Villa salting their wounds at the death.
On Tuesday Filipp Rudik jokingly suggested BATE would just have to "kick the ball out of play and hope for the best" but for much of the opening period the chance would have been a fine thing. The Catalan giants set up camp deep in opposition territory, pitching the ball one way and then the other. Supposedly part of a three-man defence, Éric Abidal and Daniel Alves rarely ventured into their own half.
Alves was at the heart of the opener on 19 minutes as his deep cross was turned in by Volodko, all too aware of the presence of Messi on his shoulder. The BATE right-back was not the only one harbouring culpability by half-time. Three minutes later Villa's teasing cross coaxed Aleksandr Gutor off his line, allowing Pedro to head into an unguarded net as he peeled off Maksim Bordachev with ease.
It got worse seven before the break when Gutor failed to hold a regulation Villa cross and the ball fell to Messi – the No10 rarely needs an invitation. Goalkeeper Gutor said his "soul was singing" after the 2-0 play-off win at SK Sturm Graz that took the Belarusian title holders through to the group stage; it must have sounded like a dirge as he trudged off for half-time in drizzly Minsk.
The mood darkened further 11 minutes after half-time when Messi combined with Alves on the right, superbly cushioning the return pass before lashing into the roof of the net from 15 metres. It was the 24-year-old's 194th competitive goal for the club, joining László Kubala in second on Barcelona's all-time list: only César Rodríguez (235) is ahead. How lone BATE striker Mateja Kežman longed for such service.
He had none, even if the hosts did improve as Barcelona took their foot of the pedal before Villa got on the act after more lax defending late on. There is work to do before BATE travel to AC Milan on 18 October, when Barcelona host FC Viktoria Plzeň.