Barcelona maintained their 100 per cent record in La Liga as Lionel Messi came off the bench to score twice in a 4-1 win away at Getafe, setting yet another personal milestone in the process.
Messi netted twice in four minutes following his introduction, the second from the penalty spot, after Adriano had given a rather unconvincing Barcelona the lead with a poked finish after 32 minutes.
In doing so the Argentinian forward moved onto 61 goals for the calendar year, surpassing his previous best tally of 60 with three and a half months remaining of 2012. He now has eight goals in six games for Barcelona this season.
Though Javier Mascherano scored an unfortunate own goal after 80 minutes, Barcelona restored their three-goal advantage in injury time when David Villa, another substitute, scored the second goal since his return from serious injury with a lovely control and finish.
The win saw Barcelona return to the top of La Liga with a fourth win in four games - ominous form for a club looking to reclaim the league title from great rivals Real Madrid this season.
A trip to South America for international duty had taken its toll on Messi so the world's finest player started on the bench, with Cesc Fabregas tasked with deputising as the false nine in Tito Vilanova's 4-3-3.
It is a role he performed with regularity during Spain's Euro 2012 triumph, and at times for Barca last season, but still looks somewhat uncomfortable in. Nevertheless, having complained recently of his frustration at being a substitute, this was a chance for Fabregas to be the focal point of the Barca attack.
Though he lacks the penetrative skills of Messi, Fabregas is an accomplished manipulator of the ball and inside four minutes he took possession before playing in Cristian Tello to the left of the box. The youngster opened up his body and fired in a low effort that Miguel Moya did well to save.
Barcelona were far from their fluent best at a ground where Real Madrid have already been beaten this season, and were somewhat fortunate not to be punished when Martin Montoya clumsily brought down Adrian Colunga just outside the box. There was contact and had the referee blown, a red card could have followed. At the other end, Miguel Torres was lucky not to give away a penalty when clearly handling.
The home side's threat was sporadic at best and their best chances came through Pedro Leon's set-pieces. The midfielder, on loan from Real Madrid, tested Victor Valdes with one dipping effort that arrived at the toes of the Barca keeper and later forced Valdes to fumble with a dangerous in-swinger from a tight angle.
Barca were out of sorts but just before the half-hour mark they were enlivened by a moment of brilliance from Thiago. Picking up the ball 30 yards from goal, the midfielder darted between two Getafe players and struck the top of the bar with a thumping effort that took a minor deflection.
Xavi soon tested Moya with a firm drive from just outside the box and on 32 minutes Adriano did put the Catalans in front. Fabregas was the creator as he carried the ball into the box, held off two men and knocked the ball to the left-back, who poked a shot under Moya for his second goal in two games.
Barca were unable to press their advantage home before the break, though Thiago almost added a second when quickly pulling down a cross and forcing Moya into an excellent save just as his shot appeared to be sneaking inside the post.
The Catalans kept Messi in reserve for the start of the second half but were soon forced into a change when Carles Puyol injured a knee in a tackle on Abdelaziz Barrada. Mascherano came on in his place and he was joined by his Argentina team-mate just a few minutes later as Messi was unleashed.
Inside two minutes he had scared Michel into a booking when the Getafe man held onto his shirt to prevent him wriggling free, while after 67 minutes Messi was utterly bemused not to be given a penalty when being clearly fouled in the box by Miguel Torres. Bizarrely a corner was awarded.
On 73 minutes Barca did have a penalty though as Michel caught Pedro with his trailing leg after the forward executed a clever twist in the box. Messi stepped up and smashed the ball down the middle of the goal for his fifth goal in four Liga games this season.
He needed only four minutes to claim his second. It was a lovely passing move from Barcelona in front of the Getafe box that culminated in Montoya having a cross deflected into the path of Messi, who side-footed home from close range.
Barcelona could not protect their clean sheet though as two minutes later Sarabia, just on as a substitute, took aim from inside the box and saw his curling effort deflect off Adriano and then Mascherano before nestling in the net. The Argentinian was credited with the goal.
However, Barcelona had the final say as Villa collected a pass on his chest in injury time, held off Valero and fired a fine finish under Moya to make it 4-1. Four goals and now four wins from four games for the pretenders to Madrid's throne.
- Lionel Messi