La Liga: FC Barcelona 1-0 Levante: Match Review

David Ramos

A recap of Barcelona's 1-0 win over Levante, which moved the Blaugrana to within six points of the 2012-13 La Liga title

A late goal from Cesc Fàbregas was enough to secure the three points for FC Barcelona on Saturday night, who moved one step closer to the La Liga title with a narrow 1-0 win over Levante at the Camp Nou. The Barcelona defense – marshalled by Eric Abidal who started his first match in over a year – kept the Levante attack at bay for the entire 90 minutes, as surprisingly the free-scoring Barça attack struggled to create chances of their own. However, they were able to reap the rewards of their staggering 80% possession in the final stages of the match, as a tiring Levante defense allowed Cesc Fàbregas too much time and space in the area – leading to the Catalan’s 10th La Liga goal of the season.

Barcelona

Levante

Possession

80%

20%

Total Shots

18

4

Shots on Target

9

0

Pass Accuracy

92%

62%

Fouls

13

6

Offsides

0

3

Yellow Cards

1

2

Red Cards

0

0

Lionel Messi missed out through injury, although the Argentine is expected to be fit in time for Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League semi-final first-leg with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, and he was joined on the sidelines by Gerard Piqué and Jonathan dos Santos, who were both left out of the squad for technical reasons. However, there was good news as Eric Abidal made his first La Liga start since 26 February 2012, when Barça triumphed by two goals to one, courtesy of a brace from Lionel Messi. Would Abidal’s presence in the heart of defense be able to inspire the Blaugrana to another home victory, or would Levante be able to rain on the proverbial Barça parade?

Within minutes of the start, Eric Abidal was forced into action, and while the Frenchman may be lacking a little match fitness, he proved that he’s still able to read the game as well as he ever was; cutting out a potentially dangerous Levante attack. In fact, judging by Abidal’s start to the match, one could be forgiven for thinking that he’d never been away – everything looked to be so effortlessly easy for Abi. Maybe Abidal fancied his chances at a starting berth for Tuesday’s match against Bayern Munich?

Certainly, with Abidal in such superb form, the Barcelona defense looked to be coping with the minimal Levante threat (since the departure of top-scorer Obafemi Martins to the Seattle Sounders, Levante have scored just three goals in all competitions), although typically, just as one aspect of the team looked to be finding form, another crucial aspect appeared to lose their magic touch. Yes, Barcelona were without Lionel Messi, and yes, they probably had Bayern Munich in mind, but the Barça offense was struggling to breakdown the Levante defense. Cristian Tello was misplacing a number of passes, David Villa was bizarrely stationed on the right-flank while this Cesc Fàbregas couldn’t have possibly been the same Cesc Fàbregas that destroyed Mallorca just a few weeks ago. The only Barça players that looked moderately dangerous were Thiago and Andrés Iniesta; and thanks to their efforts, Barcelona could and perhaps should have broken the deadlock.

Thiago was the first to impose himself on the match, drawing a save out of Levante keeper Keylor Navas, but Andrés Iniesta took it one step further, winning a questionable penalty kick on 16 minutes after a challenge from Pape Diop. Whether it was a penalty or not is beyond the point; Undiano Mallenco pointed to the spot, and ultimately his opinion was the only one that mattered; it was down to Barcelona to capitalise on this glorious opportunity.

And they couldn’t.

David Villa stepped up and everyone expected the net to ripple – surely a player with his record in front of goal would make the most of this chance? Maybe it was karma for the soft penalty decision? Whatever the reason, it was a tame effort from El Guaje, and Cesc Fàbregas couldn’t convert the rebound either. Levante would live to fight another day so to speak, while Barça would have to find another way to break the resistance of this disciplined defense.

Dani Alves came close to opening the scoring with 34 minutes on the clock, testing Navas with a vicious long-range free-kick; while it was nice to have chances from set-pieces, it was a little worrying that Barça couldn’t create a clear-cut chance from open play. And as a result, the two teams headed into the dressing rooms tied at half-time; after 45 minutes, it was still goalless at the Camp Nou.

Despite the scoreline, we had to wait 20 minutes for the first shot of the second-half, by which point Barcelona had already made their first substitution of the night as Xavi Hernández replaced Andrés Iniesta in midfield. Tito Vilanova clearly had one eye on the match against Bayern, but he also knew that a win would move Barça within six points of the La Liga title; while a point wasn’t the worst result, a win would obviously be better. So, on came Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sánchez, in place of Thiago and Tello respectively – and finally, with less than 15 minutes remaining, Barcelona would begin to exert a sustained period of pressure on the Levante goal.

Aside from wasteful efforts from both Xavi and Alves, Barça hadn’t registered a single shot in the second-half, but with fresh legs on either side of attack, that was all about to change. Barcelona was just mere minutes away from taking a well-deserved lead. And how’s this for irony – Cesc Fàbregas was the scorer, converting with aplomb after a superb low cross from Alexis Sánchez, who has now assisted 12 goals in this supposedly sub-par season. It wasn’t the greatest goal, nor had it been the best performance of the season, but it didn’t matter one iota. Barcelona held on for a narrow win, moving to within six points of the title in the process. Assuming they emerge victorious against Athletic Bilbao next weekend, Barcelona can secure the La Liga title in two weeks time when they host Real Betis, and if Real Madrid slump to an unexpected Madrid derby, Barça could even wrap up the title in a week’s time.

Not only that, but the 1-0 victory ensured that Barcelona kept their third successive La Liga clean sheet and Eric Abidal completed the full 90 minutes – a huge morale-boost heading into next week’s match with Bayern Munich. Until then, Visca el Barça!


Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook


X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Barca Blaugranes

You must be a member of Barca Blaugranes to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Barca Blaugranes. You should read them.

Join Barca Blaugranes

You must be a member of Barca Blaugranes to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Barca Blaugranes. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9353_tracker