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La Liga: FC Barcelona 7-0 Levante UD: Match Review

A recap of Barcelona's 7-0 opening day win over Levante at the Camp Nou as goals from Pedro (2), Lionel Messi (2), Alexis Sanchez, Dani Alves and Xavi secured the three points for the Blaugrana

David Ramos

FC Barcelona kicked off their 2013-2014 La Liga campaign in style, cruising to an emphatic 7-0 home win over Levante UD at the Camp Nou on Sunday evening. Alexis Sánchez got the ball rolling so to speak after just three minutes, and he was joined on the score-sheet by Pedro (2), Lionel Messi (2), Dani Alves and Xavi as Barça sent a clear message to the rest of La Liga and indeed World Football with a sensational opening day performance.






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Gerardo Martino clearly had one eye on Barcelona’s midweek Supercopa de España clash with Atletico Madrid judging by his team selection; usual first-team regulars Jordi Alba, Andrés Iniesta and Neymar all had to settle for a place on the bench. This meant starts for Adriano, Cesc Fàbregas and Pedro, who accompanied Alexis Sánchez and Lionel Messi in the Blaugrana attack – all in all, a strong, intelligent selection from our new head coach, but would it be enough to secure the three points against a hard-working Levante outfit, who were keen to make an impression on the opening day of the La Liga season?

The last time Barcelona started the season with a new manager, they defeated eventual UEFA Champions League qualifiers Real Sociedad 5-1 in front of a packed crowd at the Camp Nou, and Martino was dreaming of a similar start to his reign on the sidelines. Levante weren’t expected to provide much of a test to this Barcelona side – although few would have expected Barça to get off to such a good start.

The visitors simply couldn’t keep up with Barcelona’s superior passing and movement, and with less than three minutes played at the Camp Nou, the Blaugrana took a deserved lead. The build-up was sensational; Pedro played a square pass from the left-wing to find Xavi, and as per usual, the Catalan maestro timed his pass to perfection, splitting the Levante defense to find Cesc Fàbregas, who had beaten the offside trap with an intelligently-timed run. Faced with a one-on-one, Fàbregas could have tested his luck against Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas, but selflessly cut the ball inside to Alexis Sánchez, who duly tapped home Barça’s first goal of the season.

There were some who were predicting the worst after Tito Vilanova’s surprise resignation, but it appeared to be business as usual at the Camp Nou. Barcelona were dominating possession, dominating the territorial battle too – and creating a hatful of chances to boot. Levante could barely catch their breath before another wave of Barça pressure, let alone mount any kind of a fight-back. So, it was no surprise that Barcelona soon doubled their advantage.

And who else would grab their second goal of the night but Lionel Messi? The four-time Ballon d’Or winner was Barcelona’s top-scorer in pre-season and is on track to utterly obliterate the all-time La Liga scoring record; the only surprise was that it took him 13 minutes to notch his first of the season! Curiously enough, this move started with a crunching – but fair – challenge from Gerard Piqué, who won back possession and a Barça throw-in with his spending sliding challenge just inside the Levante half.

With the ball back on the field of play, Barcelona found Cesc Fàbregas who worked the ball back to Messi, and after a one-two with Pedro, Messi had created himself an easy chance, walking the ball into the net to open his tally for the campaign.

It was truly mesmeric stuff from the hosts, and worryingly for Joaquin Caparros and Levante, the game was still in its infancy. Less than a quarter of an hour had been played, and already, Levante looked a defeated side. In truth, they were probably powerless to stop it – just how can you keep your cool and stay optimistic when you’re two goals down after less than a quarter of the match?

It’s an impossible task, and Caparros probably should have advised his team to go into damage limitation mode. Maybe he did? But it’s not like it would have made much of a difference.

Barcelona were keen to impress, hungry for goals and determined to send a message to the rest of La Liga – epitomised by Lionel Messi’s work ethic. As a player, he has it all and could be forgiven for resting on his laurels – but no, that wasn’t enough for Messi; he still wants to work as hard as anyone else and his efforts helped Barça regain possession in the corner of the Levante half.

With the rest of the team surging forward in support, Messi worked the ball back to Dani Alves, who brought a roar out of the Camp Nou crowd with a stunning back-heel to complete his one-two with Messi. The Argentine proceeded to pick out Cesc Fàbregas and again, the Catalan selflessly attempted to tee up one of his colleagues, only to be foiled by Levante keeper, Keylor Navas. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough – the ball rolled kindly to Dani Alves and after playing such an integral part in this move, it was only fitting that the Brazilian applied the finishing touch to extend Barça’s lead to three.

Within a couple of minutes, Barcelona were at it again; Lionel Messi was involved once again, threading a delightful pass through the Levante defense to find the run of Pedro – and unlike previous seasons, the "clinical Pedro" was back, slotting the ball past Navas to make it 4-0 before the half-hour mark.

Just as it seemed that every Barcelona shot ended up nestling in the back of the net, Navas made a couple of outstanding saves to momentarily keep the score down, first tipping Messi’s speculative lobbed attempt out for a corner, before acrobatically denying Xavi’s swerving free-kick on 33 minutes.

The trouble was, Navas wasn’t getting any help from his colleagues – Pedro Lopez needlessly tripped Adriano in the corner of the area to give away a clumsy penalty and even in this scenario, the referee couldn’t show any mercy. Up stepped Lionel Messi who made no mistake with the finish, completing the Manita with less than five minutes left in the first-half.

And staggeringly, this wasn’t even the end of the scoring...

Xavi combined with Cesc Fàbregas, and the latter’s scooped pass sent the former clean-through on goal. While Xavi’s shot was far from well-taken, or even well-struck, it was enough to beat Navas and that meant that Barça headed into the half-time break with a SIX goal lead against Levante.

Unsurprisingly, Gerardo Martino was so impressed with what he saw in the first-half that he sent out the same XI to start the second, while Joaquin Caparros made two changes. Off went the two holding midfielders, Mate Simao and Sergio da Silva Pinto with Miguel Pallardo and Issam El Adoua taking their place in the shell-shocked Levante team.

Thankfully, the visitors knew that the second-half couldn’t possibly be any worse than the first, and that at some stage, Barcelona might take pity and simply "play out" the remaining minutes without ever really forcing the issue. However, for the time being, Barça continued to press forward in search of more goals – only to be denied by Keylor Navas.

Twice the Blaugrana went to lob the ball over the keeper – through Messi and Gerard Piqué respectively – and twice Navas kept his composure to make the save. Even if he had conceded six goals by this point of the match, Navas was actually playing rather well in the Levante goal. Certainly without his saves, Levante could have found themselves behind by double figures, such was Barcelona’s dominance.

Adriano was the next to try his luck, firing straight at the keeper from close range and he followed it up with a curling effort from just outside the area which was parried away from danger by the impressive Navas.

The next break in play saw Barcelona make their first change of the night and the introduction of the newest member of the squad – Neymar. His impact? Instantaneous; albeit for the wrong reasons. His debut wasn’t immediately marked with a goal, or an assist, or even a dribble – instead Neymar was marked (literally) by a heavy challenge. Welcome to La Liga?

Before long, Lionel Messi was taken off for Andrés Iniesta (it’s not like we need both Messi and Neymar on the field in a game like this) and Iniesta also made an instant impact, harrying Pedro Lopez so much as to give away a foul. Not the greatest contribution one might think, until Hector Rodas restarted play with an awful pass, criminally giving the ball to Cesc Fàbregas. Fàbregas’ dribbling took Navas out of the game and allowed Pedro to score his second of the evening – it’s no small wonder that Barcelona were so keen to keep hold of Cesc Fàbregas given a performance like this.

Pedro was denied a chance to complete his hat-trick by Gerardo Martino, who replaced Pedro with our latest Spanish debutant, Cristian Tello. The fleet-footed winger took up an unusual place on the right-wing, demonstrating that Neymar’s arrival might just have a negative impact after all.

The Brazilian nearly capped off a great day and his debut with a goal, only for Keylor Navas to once again come to the rescue. On the other hand, it’s not like Barcelona were not going to be content with their seven goal win!

Next up, Barça travel to the capital to take on Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday night, but until then, Visca el Barça!

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