Lionel Messi’s late free-kick ensured Barcelona came back from a goal down to beat Alaves 2-1 on Sunday and stay 11 points clear at the top of La Liga.
The victory equaled Barca’s record by going unbeaten in first 21 league games of the season thanks to second-half comeback win with goals from Luis Suárez and Messi.
John Guidetti’s strike against the run of play left Barca 45 minutes away from another home defeat to Alaves, but Luis Suarez equalised with a volley midway through the second half, before Messi emerged as the match-winner with a swirling set-piece.
Philippe Coutinho was given his full Blaugrana debut on the right of midfield, but Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba dropped out of the XI, while Munir El Haddadi was only a substitute against his parent club.
Alaves famously won 1-0 at Camp Nou last season, in only their third game back as a top-flight side, and they were on the ropes early on, with the Catalans channeling their passing DNA to great effect.
However, their high line was split wide open for Guidetti, who slipped as he looped a finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to evoke memories of the two sides’ previous meeting in Catalonia.
Barca had more attempts in the first half, yet the Basques were the more threatening as Ibai Gomez’s volley was parried away by Ter Stegen, while the winger and Ruben Sobrino could’ve punished the hosts from two other breakaways.
Ernesto Valverde threw on Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto for the second period, but a lacklustre restart was awoken by Coutinho’s substitution just after the hour mark.
Fernando Pacheco was on hand to deny Paulinho twice in quick succession from close range, but the former Real Madrid goalkeeper could only watch Suarez volley in Andres Iniesta’s deep cross.
Messi hit the post from a free kick, but he made no mistake with his second as he superbly picked his spot, curling the ball into Pacheco’s top-right corner.
Alaves felt they should’ve been awarded a penalty near the death, Samuel Umtiti’s hand blocking a shot in the box, but their appeals were quickly waved away.