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Griezmann the great! Frenchman's stellar display against Betis helps Barcelona forget about missing Messi

22:43 BST 25/08/2019
Antoine Griezmann Barcelona
The forward scored a pair of goals on his Camp Nou debut, as a pair of academy talents also made headlines for the Blaugrana on Sunday

It’s not often Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez can put their feet up and watch Barcelona rack up a big win from the front row, but Antoine Griezmann and Carles Perez gave the South American duo plenty to smile about on Sunday.

Both Messi and Suarez are out injured, along with Ousmane Dembele, and after Barcelona’s opening day defeat at Athletic Bilbao they were among the 80,000 inside Camp Nou fearing the worst when Real Betis took the lead.

However a Griezmann double, Perez’s third and strikes from Jordi Alba and Arturo Vidal got Barcelona off the board in La Liga, earning the Catalans an emphatic 5-2 win.

The best news for Barcelona was Griezmann’s display, as the French star became the first Barcelona player to score twice on his home debut in the 21st century - and the first football player ever to throw glitter confetti in the air after doing so as part of an elaborate pre-planned celebration.

After whipping in his excellent second goal Griezmann made a dart for the corner flag and grabbed a handful of confetti from a club employee, flinging it into the sky in front of the Barcelona fans.

It was a homage to basketball player LeBron James’s chalk toss, a legendary icon of the sport whom Griezmann likened Messi to in interviews when he arrived.

Some will wonder if this kind of frippery is going to detract and distract from Griezmann’s Barcelona career, especially after the kerfuffle over his 2018 documentary in which he rejected a switch to Camp Nou, but his performance glittered too on Sunday.

Barcelona dominated the early stages and one move in particular between Griezmann and Rafinha Alcantara sliced open the defence beautifully, although Betis eventually scrambled the ball away.

However a perfectly weighted Loren Moron pass found Betis’s star summer signing Nabil Fekir, who finished sublimely. Neither the assist nor the strike had an inch of leeway to spare.

But Barcelona, despite missing their two figureheads, continued to drive forward and got the equaliser their performance merited when Sergi Roberto dinked a neat ball to Griezmann, who lunged in to slide home.

Off the mark, then, and hungry for more - five minutes into the second half Griezmann scored his second, and this felt like the moment from which his Barcelona career will really take off.

The striker also expertly slid a ball across the box for Vidal to ram in Barcelona’s fifth goal on a wild night.

A word too for Perez, who lacks the sheer quality Dembele possesses but whose work-rate, concentration and willingness to adhere to the tactical desires of the coach exceed the former Dortmund winger’s performance in those areas.

Perez plugged away and got the goal he deserved after a good link-up with Nelson Semedo.

It was a good night for Barcelona academy talents, with Ansu Fati making his debut at 16 years, 298 days old and becoming the second youngest player to feature for the club.

Although he came on while the players were celebrating Vidal’s goal and moments later had to watch Ter Stegen picking the ball out of his net after Loren Moron’s screamer, it was an exciting 15 minute cameo for the teenager.

Ansu may not get the chance to play with Messi for quite some time but there was plenty here for the Argentine and the club’s supporters to enjoy.

On tonight's evidence Messi will already be looking forward to getting back on the pitch and linking up with his new playmate Griezmann.