Barcelona earned head coach Ernesto Valverde a much-needed 2-1 LaLiga victory over Villarreal but Lionel Messi was substituted at half-time, cutting short his first start of the season.
After a modest start to the campaign Valverde’s position had come under increasing scrutiny, yet goals from Antoine Griezmann and Arthur secured three welcome points on Tuesday.
Villarreal midfielder Santi Cazorla pulled a goal back before the break, but Barcelona’s defence stood firm in the second half.
Finally able to make his 400th LaLiga start following a calf problem, Messi pulled up with a muscle injury just before the half-hour mark and despite returning to the field following treatment, he was replaced by Ousmane Dembele at the interval.
The Argentina forward, who picked up The Best FIFA Men’s Player award in Milan on Monday, had been instrumental in his team’s sixth-minute opener at Camp Nou.
Messi’s cross following a corner picked out Griezmann and the France international headed in from a tight angle.