Barcelona’s first La Liga match without six-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, ended in a dramatic six-goal thriller against Real Sociedad.

The Catalans let go of their prized asset as they battle to slash a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.4 billion) debt mountain while the Argentine switching to French giant, Paris Saint-Germain on a two-year deal.

Coach, Roald Koeman, had on Saturday admitted that the departure of Messi “has been painful for all the Blaugrana fans, for everything Leo has done for this club, for the type of player he is,” but urged them to avoid “living in the past” ahead of the first Liga match of the post-Messi era.

Gerard Piqué (19′) and Martin Braithwaite (45+2′, 59′) gave the Blaugrana a 3-0 lead after an hour but Julen Lobete Cienfuegos (82′) pulled a late consolation eighth minute to the end of the game to begin the late drama.

Barcelona slipped three minutes later when Mikel Oyarzabal beat Neto with a neatly taken freekick to reduce the deficit to just one goal as the visitors pushed for the equaliser.

However, it was substitute Sergi Roberto (90+1′) who spared the blushes of Koeman when he netted the fourth and decisive winner at the death after being teed up by Braithwaite to end the game 4-2.