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La Liga: Levante 0-4 FC Barcelona: Match Review

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A recap of Barcelona's stunning 4-0 away win over Levante at the Ciutat de Valencia as second-half goals from Lionel Messi (2), Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas secured an emphatic win for the table-topping Blaugrana

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

Barcelona breezed to a 4-0 victory over sixth-placed Levante at the Ciutat de Valencia on Sunday night as second-half goals from Lionel Messi (2), Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fàbregas were enough to secure the three points for the Blaugrana. The win extended Barcelona’s lead over Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid to a staggering eleven points and ensured that Barca maintained their slender three-point lead over Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, who cruised to a 4-0 win over Sevilla prior to Barcelona’s win.






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Tito Vilanova made just one change from the XI that started against Spartak Moscow at the Luzhniki on Tuesday as Carles Puyol replaced Javier Mascherano in the heart of the defense. That meant that there was no space for Cristian Tello in the starting line-up, despite David Villa’s injury, while both Adriano and Thiago had to settle for a place on the bench after spending a number of weeks on the sidelines. Would the Blaugrana be able to extend their lead over Real Madrid to eleven points, or would Levante pull off an upset?

Neither side started the match particularly brightly and a quarter of an hour passed before either team managed to get a shot away at goal. Despite dominating possession, that side was not Barcelona as Jose Barkero tested Victor Valdés from the edge of the Barca box with a well-struck effort on his stronger left-foot. Dani Alves had to leave the field just a few minutes later with an injury that the Brazilian appeared to have picked up in a challenge with Juanlu by the corner flag. Martin Montoya took his place at right-back and in doing so the young full-back completed the La Masia XI. With eleven canteranos on the field, surely Barcelona would start to create chances?

Lionel Messi went close with a venomous strike from the edge of the Levante area and Xavi followed suit, firing his right-footed shot well wide of the target. While he did force a save from Gustavo Munua with an instinctive volley on the half-hour mark, it was clear to see that Barcelona were far from their best against a disciplined performance from their hosts. In fact, one could argue that Levante were the better side, and they could have taken the lead through Obafemi Martins who had the best chance of the half; but the Nigerian couldn’t direct Juanlu’s first-time cross past Victor Valdés and the match remained goalless headed into the break.

Neither side made a change at the break, but Barcelona came out a much-improved side and within minutes of the restart they found that much-needed breakthrough. Andrés Iniesta was the creator, slipping the ball past the Levante defense to Lionel Messi who lifted the ball over the despairing grasp of Gustavo Muna. It was Leo’s 18th La Liga goal of the season, and Barcelona’s 40th. Sure, it took them a little longer than expected, but they were finally ahead at the Ciutat de Valencia.

Five minutes later, Barcelona doubled their lead as Lionel Messi converted Iniesta’s cross to complete his brace. Even before he set up the first the goal, Iniesta looked dangerous down the left-hand side and after skipping past Cristian Lell (again), Iniesta fed his Argentine colleague with a low cross and from all of six yards, you knew that there was only one outcome as Messi notched his 82nd goal of 2012, leaving him just three behind the record set by Gerd Muller.

Levante were stunned. After defending valiantly for the entire first half, all their hard work was being undone by the combined genius of Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi – now two goals behind, Levante were all but out of the game, even with 40 minutes left to play. After providing two assists for the two opening goals, Iniesta was the next to find the score-sheet and what a goal it was as Andrés found the top-corner of Munua’s goal from the best part of 20 yards after a nice pass from Pedro. However, Iniesta was not done yet as he combined well with Cesc Fàbregas who made it four after a neat interchange between the two allowed the former-Arsenal captain to round Munua and pass the ball into an empty net.

Pedro could have grabbed Barcelona’s fifth by finishing either of the two chances that fell his way after Fàbregas’ goal, but thanks to a combination of wasteful finishing and poor control from the winger, Barca were unable to wrap up the Manita. Adriano and Thiago were each brought on for 15 minute cameos, replacing Jordi Alba and Xavi respectively although neither saw a lot of the ball in the final stages of the game. It wasn’t all plain-sailing for Tito Vilanova’s side though as a somewhat dubious penalty decision gave Levante an opportunity to score a consolation. Maybe their effort over the 90 minutes deserved a goal, but it wasn’t to be as Victor Valdés came up huge to not only save Barkero’s penalty but to also keep Angel’s follow-up attempt out. It was a magnificent double-save from the Catalan who appears to be getting back to his best after a shaky start to the season.

Next up, the Blaugrana host Alaves in the Copa del Rey, before Atheltic Bilbao visit the Camp Nou next Saturday. Visca el Barca!