Lionel Messi scored a superb Champions League hat-trick as Barcelona ran Ajax ragged in their Group H opener at the Nou Camp.
Scorers: Barcelona - Messi (22, 55, 75), Pique (69)
Referee: S Moen (NOR)
The Argentinian striker was at his best, despatching a fine first-half free-kick and then producing two clinical finishes either side of Gerard Pique’s header.
Ajax were spectators in the second period and were denied even a consolation when Victor Valdes saved Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s penalty.
Messi, perhaps inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo’s treble for Real Madrid on Tuesday night, now has 62 Champions League goals and a record four hat-tricks.
Neymar, making his Champions League debut, was quickly into the action as he raced clear and tested Kenneth Vermeer after only three minutes.
The Brazilian was looking the game’s liveliest player, eager for the ball and running at the away defence, but it was Messi who opened the scoring.
He was going away from the box when Lerin Duarte trod on his boot, though he showed no discomfort when stepping up to caress the free-kick home from just outside the area.
It took Barca five minutes of the second half to post warning of what was about to come, Ricardo van Rhijn hooking Dani Alves cross away to deny Neymar a simple finish.
That delayed the inevitable, though, as a four-on-three breakaway found its way to Messi streaking into the area. He guided the ball on to his left foot, committing his man in process, and finished at the near post.
Messi almost made it three with an improvised touch off his knee, but it was Pique who struck next when he rose to nod home Neymar’s precision ball into the box.
Ajax were being cut open at regular intervals and went four behind to Messi’s hat-trick goal in the 75th minute. He made it look simple, feigning to shoot before picking out the bottom corner with apparent ease.
Sigthorsson had the chance to rescue something from the evening when Javier Mascherano conceded the penalty, but Valdes guessed right to preserve his clean sheet.
Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Pique (Bartra 80), Mascherano, Adriano, Fabregas (Xavi 71), Busquets, Iniesta, Sanchez, Messi, Neymar (Pedro 72). Subs: Pinto, Montoya, Song, Tello.
Ajax: Vermeer, Van Rhijn, Denswil, Moisander (Van der Hoorn 73), Blind (Schone 78), Poulsen, De Jong (Serero 59), Duarte, Krkic, Sigthorsson, Boilesen. Subs: Cillessen, Fischer, Hoesen, Sana.