BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo scored after making their first starts for Barcelona in a 5-0 rout of Real Betis in the Spanish league on Saturday.
The pair of Portugal internationals made their debuts last round for Barcelona as substitutes two days after they joined the defending champions on loan just hours before the summer transfer market closed.
Felix opened the scoring and Cancelo capped the biggest win so far this season for the defending champions.
“I would underscore that I see both (Felix and Cancelo) as very happy to be here and motivated to help the team,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said. “They give us more variety and improve the team thanks to their individual talent, and today the team was brilliant.”
Felix scored in the 25th minute and then cleverly let a pass run between his legs in the area that Robert Lewandowski fired home to double the lead in the 32nd.
Ferran Torres, who also made his first start of the season, added a third goal in the 62nd when he became the first Barcelona player to score directly from a free kick since Lionel Messi did so against Valencia in May 2021, according to OPTA statistics.
After substitute Raphinha struck from just outside the area in the 66th, Cancelo topped the victory in the 81st with a great solo effort after he cut back twice to ditch his marker and beat goalkeeper Rui Silva from an angle.
Barcelona moved top of the league. It’s one point ahead of Real Madrid which plays Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Barcelona hosts Antwerp on Tuesday to start its Champions League group campaign, while Atletico Madrid is at Lazio the same day.
HAPPY TO BE HERE
Felix moved to Barcelona in a bid to relaunch a promising career that had stalled after the 23-year-old fell out with Atletico coach Diego Simeone and failed to impress on a loan deal at Chelsea last season.
His goal came after Cancelo recovered the ball and Oriol Romeu met his run into the box with a lobbed pass. Felix missed on his first effort to strike the ball, but he was quick enough to dribble around Silva and thread in a shot from a narrow angle.
“I am working to play at my best,” Felix said. “My teammates are very good, the atmosphere is very positive, and they make it easy to play with them. The change of team has been good for me.”
THE SHARK STRIKES
Torres, who had to fight for playing time last season and was dropped from Spain’s national team after the World Cup, has enjoyed quite a turnaround .
The forward leads Barcelona, along with Lewandowksi, with three goals this season and scored twice for Spain on Tuesday in his return to the national team.
He sent his free kick curling around the edge of the defensive wall and beyond Silva’s reach.
The crowd at Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium chanted “Tiburon!” – Spanish for “shark” – after his great goal.
“I had meant to shoot over the barrier, but when things are going the right way, the ball goes in,” Torres said about this strike. “I am mentally strong and have lots of confidence, which you have to have at a club like Barcelona.”
ATLETICO’S `POOREST GAME’
Valencia routed Atletico 3-0 at home in what Simeone said was the worst performance for his team since he became its coach more than a decade ago.
Striker Hugo Duro tapped in a cross to the near post in the fifth minute and added a second goal on the break in the 34th. Javi Guerra rounded off the victory in the 54th.
“Everyone saw it. Valencia was better than we were,” Simeone said. “We played the poorest game since I have been with the club.”
It was Atletico’s first loss of the season in four games played. Its scheduled match in the previous round against Sevilla was postponed because of heavy rain.
WINS FOR BILBAO AND MALLORCA
Athletic Bilbao beat Cadiz 3-0 with second-half goals from Gorka Guruzeta, Asier Villalibre and Inaki Williams.
Bilbao dominated throughout and only the woodwork stopped Oihan Sancet from scoring twice in the first half.
Mallorca striker Vedat Muriqi scored with five minutes left to beat Celta Vigo 1-0 on the road and give Javier Aguirre’s team its first victory of the season.
Celta has lost all three of its home games since Rafa Benitez became its coach this off-season.