Barcelona’s La Liga match was played behind closed doors after violent protests about the controversial referendum on Catalonia’s independence, with Las Palmas playing with the Spanish flag embroidered on to their shirts.

Messi helps Barcelona extend perfect start

Barcelona continued their 100% start to life in La Liga in bizarre circumstances, beating Las Palmas 3-0 at an empty Camp Nou. Thanks to protests across Catalonia, over the controversial Catalan Independence referendum in which more than 750 people have been injured, the club asked for the match to be postponed, but that request was rejected. According to their club president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, Barcelona was threatened with a six-point deduction if they did not play the game, which led the club to play it behind closed doors and leaving thousands of supporters stranded outside. A statement from La Liga said the match should take place as normal because the security and safety of the fans had been “guaranteed” by the Catalan police.

Messi has now 14 goals this season, in all competitions.

Messi has now 14 goals this season, in all competitions.

According to Bartomeu, directors, executives and players met and decided that the game should be played behind closed doors, and by playing this way, with an empty stadium, the club would be showing its disagreement about the decision not to postpone the game. If Barcelona were to deny and postpone the game, they would lose six points as a penalty. Las Palmas had the national flag embroidered on to their match-day shirts to show their support for a united Spain, while Barcelona emerged for the warm-up wearing yellow-and-red-striped shirt, the colours of the Estelada flag associated with Catalan Independence.

After the match, a teary-eyed Piqué described the mach as the hardest game he has ever played, when speaking to the gathered media. Piqué had also tweeted a photo of him voting in the referendum, early on Sunday, with the description: “Together we are unstoppable defending democracy”.

The result of the match ensured Barcelona extended their perfect start to the season, earning their seventh consecutive league win. Ernesto Valverde’s side have now 23 goals scored this season, conceding only twice, and by keeping Las Palmas at bay on Sunday, Barcelona recorded their 1000th La Liga clean sheet.

With an eerie and strange atmosphere, Barcelona started slowly and Las Palmas were the dominant team during much of the first half. Jonathan Calleri rattled the post three minutes before the interval. But at half-time, Ernesto Valverde sought personal changes, introducing Andrés Iniesta and Rakitic in place of Aleix Vidal and Paulinho. Barcelona began the second period with much more intent and were rewarded for their efforts after 49 minutos, with Sergio Busquets scoring with an header from Messi’s corner.

After their first goal, Barcelona grew in confidence and in stature, and after two goal attempts from Rakitic, seeing his shots blocked by defender Mauricio Lemos, Messi came up with a second goal, rounding the goalkeeper, making it look so easy after latching on to Denis Suárez’s defence-splitting reverse ball. Seven minutes later the game was over, with Messi starting and finishing a slick move for his 14th goal of the season. Luis Suárez also found the back of the net himself, but his acrobatic effort was ruled out after he was adjudged to have committed a foul in the build-up to his overhead kick.