After 45 minutes at the Ciutat de Valencia last night, FC Barcelona looked set for another frustrating night at the hands of Joaquin Caparros' Levante UD. But when the two teams emerged from the half-time break, the Blaugrana upped the tempo, worked the ball into the feet of superstar Lionel Messi and reaped the rewards, cruising to a 4-1 win courtesy of a second-half hat-trick from Cristian Tello.
Each of the Catalan's three goals were ably assisted by the spectacular Messi, who turned creator in the face of some rather extreme defensive tactics from Levante. Of course, Barça benefitted from some fortune at some stages -- the own goal that tied the teams at 1-1 was certainly comical if nothing else. But overall, few could deny that they deserved the win and a healthy three goal lead that they will take back to the Camp Nou for next week's second-leg.
Following Real Sociedad's 3-1 win over Racing Santander in the evening's early kick-off, Barcelona know that a probable semi-final against the Basque outfit awaits them in the next stage. After all, few would wager that either Levante or Racing can overturn these deficits in the second-leg.
Amongst the positives was Dani Alves' performance at right-back; the Brazilian was in formidable form last night. On another day, his crosses could have provided two or three assists, while his sumptuous effort from long range was mere feet away from rippling the back of the net.
All in all, a good win and a productive night for Gerardo Martino's team.