Barcelona 4-1 Levante: Lionel Messi Double Sees Barca Maintain 100 Per Cent Start
Barcelona kept their place at the top of the Primera Division and maintained their 100 per cent start to the season by beating Levante 4-1 at the Nou Camp.
The visitors managed to keep the Spanish champions at bay until half-time, but Marc Bartra soon broke the deadlock before a double from Lionel Messi and a goal from Neymar increased Barca’s advantage, while Victor Casadesus netted a consolation for Levante.
Luis Enrique rotated his side following the 1-1 draw with Roma and with a difficult trip to Celta Vigo coming up in three days’ time.
Sergi Roberto, Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez all dropped to the bench, while Munir El Haddadi, Sandro Ramirez and Marc Bartra came in, and Dani Alves returned after spending a month out injured.
Although Barcelona predictably dominated possession throughout the game, they struggled to break Levante down in the opening 45 minutes. Neymar flashed a shot wide of the far post after being played in by Messi, and the Argentinian was then denied by a double save from Ruben Martinez.
The goalkeeper kept out another shot from Messi later in the half, and to his relief Sandro blasted the loose ball into the side netting.
There were also a couple of scares for the hosts, who found themselves caught on the break on two separate occasions, but they were grateful for the wayward finishing of Levante forward Nabil Ghilas and midfielder Verza.
Barca finally took the lead on 50 minutes through the unlikely figure of Bartra, who controlled a curling pass from Messi with his chest before tucking the ball in at the near post.
Levante’s resistance had finally been breached, and six minutes later Barca struck again, this time Neymar getting on the end of a ball from the right-hand side from Alves, and striking the ball beyond three Levante defenders at the second time of asking.
Messi had been playing a deeper role in the game than usual but was able to get on the scoresheet via the penalty spot after Neymar was tripped by Angel Trujillo.
Casadesus made the most of some sloppy goalkeeping from Marc-Andre ter Stegen to pull one back for Levante but the visitors then conceded another penalty when Zouhair Feddal tugged Messi’s shirt in the area.
This time the Argentinian sent the ball flying into the stands behind the goal, missing his second penalty of the season.
However, he made amends in the last minute with a trademark run through the defence and a low, driven, left-footed shot into the bottom corner.