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La Liga: Levante UD 0-5 FC Barcelona: Match Review

A comprehensive, blow-by-blow recap of FC Barcelona's Manita victory over lowly Levante UD at the Ciutat de Valencia, as goals from Neymar, Ivan Rakitic, Sandro, Pedro and Lionel Messi secured an easy victory for the league leaders

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

FC Barcelona cruised to an emphatic 5-0 victory over La Liga strugglers Levante UD at the Ciutat de Valencia on Sunday evening, overcoming stormy conditions to run riot against Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side. While it took the Blaugrana over half an hour to break the deadlock, they were in complete control from the outset against Los Granotes and Neymar’s 34th minute opener was not only well-deserved, but a long time coming.

With that cushion, Barça pushed forward in search of more goals and while Lionel Messi missed a first-half penalty, the visiting Blaugrana capitalised on Loukas Vyntra’s sending off to run riot against their hapless hosts, as a missile from Ivan Rakitić effectively ended the match as a contest before half-time.

After the break, Barcelona moved into cruise control and despite never really forcing the issue, they still added three more goals to their tally as substitute Sandro, Pedro and Lionel Messi all got themselves on the scoresheet. Five goals, five different scorers, a fifth victory and a fifth clean sheet.

Watch out everyone: FC Barcelona are back in business.






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After three successive La Liga victories and three successive clean sheets, Luis Enrique claimed to have complete faith in his squad this week, perhaps explaining his full-scale rotation in midweek as the Blaugrana kicked off their UEFA Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win over APOEL Nicosia. However, while Lucho may have faith in the abilities of his fringe players, he elected for a strong line-up for the visit to Valencia, where Barça were scheduled to face off against La Liga’s worst starters: Levante UD.

Claudio Bravo ousted Marc-André ter Stegen to retain his place in goal, while Gerard Piqué somewhat surprisingly dropped back down to the bench, with Javier Mascherano his replacement in the heart of defense. Ivan Rakitić and Andrés Iniesta slotted back into midfield, while there was a second successive start for Neymar, who was so decisive with a brace off the bench against Athletic Bilbao last weekend. Meanwhile, Munir El Haddadi’s string of successive starts ended at four, as Enrique favoured Pedro to the La Masia starlet.

Playing it safe? Perhaps. Would Enrique’s conservative selection pay dividends and ensure the Blaugrana maintained their 100% record?


Barcelona started the match promisingly, immediately clearing the danger as Levante attempted to throw caution to the wind early on before they inevitably retreated into a defensive shell. In that sense, Barça could expect a similar approach to that of APOEL, who dropped deep early into two banks of four, congesting the middle of the field in an attempt to stifle the Blaugrana attack. However, Levante wouldn’t settle into that shape immediately, and as such, Barça’s best window was arguably that of the first five minutes of the match.

Maybe Luis Enrique noted as much in his pre-match team talk, because Barcelona pushed the issue early and it very nearly paid dividends. A cross to the far post found Dani Alves, who selflessly squared it back to Jeremy Mathieu. In an uncharacteristic forward position, Mathieu had an opportunity to test Levante goalkeeper Jesus Fernandez but his toe-poked effort was deflected behind for a corner.

Neymar’s quick feet and direct dribbling was also causing a few early problems as he keep the Levante defense guessing with a couple of intelligent runs, while Jordi Alba was making his presence known on the overlap down the left.

Perhaps consciously, Barça were favouring the left, almost ignoring Dani Alves and his inconsistent crossing on the opposite flank. Not that this stopped Alves from marauding forward on the attack when the Blaugrana were in possession; with the ball, Barça’s shape was almost that of a 3-2-5, with Busquets dropping into the “backline”, while Alba and Alves pushed forward alongside the attacking triumvirate who were operating rather narrow as per Lucho’s usual instructions.

Consequently, there was a lot of pressure on the backline to snuff out any danger early, or else. With Jeremy Mathieu somewhat off his game, the result was often “or else” when Levante did venture forward. First Jordi Alba’s incredible pace covered for Mathieu’s first error, before a stunning last-ditch intervention from Ivan Rakitić saved a certain goal as Mathieu’s lunging challenge set Morales free down the right for a square pass that surely would have otherwise been converted by David Barral.

Yet more proof that the Croatian midfielder actually doubles as deity on the football pitch.

At face value, it was disconcerting that Levante were creating chances after starting the season without a goal in three matches; yet their adventurousness was leaving space for the Blaugrana to exploit.

Jordi Alba’s pace was again the difference-maker, as he burst into space in the Levante area but in typical left-back fashion, his finish left an awful lot to be desired. A good chance went begging and Barcelona would have to plug away a little while longer.

Lionel Messi’s presence in a somewhat more withdrawn role as a false nine, bordering on an orthodox #10 position, was drawing Levante defenders, midfielders and probably even their kitman away from the area, and indeed away from their usual assignments. Capitalising on this, Messi’s intelligence helped create Barça’s next noteworthy chance as he drew the pressure before releasing a pass to the left where Iniesta helped it on to Neymar. The “overlap” was working perfectly and Neymar had time for the shot, but his effort was denied by a sprawling save from Jesus Fernandez.

It was fantastic work from the Levante keeper, denying what could have been Neymar’s third goal in as many appearances. Still, Barça pushed forward and pressed on in search of the opener; Messi was the fulcrum and everything was running through him. A superb lofted pass nearly sent Neymar clear on goal only for Levante to clear the danger – but only as far as the Argentine who let rip with a thunderbolt, which again, was blocked.

There were just too many bodies in the centre of the field, it was impossible to play it short; so Barça improvised and nearly created a goal, route one style. Javier Mascherano’s long pass over the Levante defense found the run of Neymar, who was looking sharp up top – and as Jesus rushed out to meet the Brazilian, Neymar flicked the ball goalwards with his head, only to find his accuracy was just off. Another chance and still no goal.

The good news? We were only half-way through the first-half.

The bad news? A few more minutes passed and suddenly we were half-an-hour into the game, yet Levante were fairly comfortable holding the league leaders in front of a capacity crowd at the Ciutat de Valencia.

Were Barcelona doing enough? What could they do to improve their chances of victory? Unfortunately, no-one seemed to have the answer to either question, at least not a definitive one anyway. The best Barça could muster was probably Neymar, who danced past a few challenges on the counter-attack before squaring the ball into the Levante box where ultimately no-one was waiting. The lack of support was bemusing, so next time, Neymar decided to go it alone.

Lionel Messi – who else – was the provider. Again in his withdrawn role, Messi was drawing the Levante defenders and that was creating space behind the lines for Neymar to break into. With the Levante defense tricked into a high line, the Brazilian used his intelligence and blistering pace to break the offside trap, get on the end of Messi’s super-human pass and then his talent took care of the rest. Bearing down on goal, Neymar caressed the ball away from the despairing reach of Jesus Fernandez and coolly slotted the ball into the resulting empty net to hand Barça a deserved lead.

It was his third goal in as many games, as Neymar moved into top spot as Barça’s top scorer for the season so far – serving as a helpful reminder to the ignorant: he’s actually very, very good at football.

Heck, Neymar was even working hard at the defensive end. Levante had had their moments in the opening period and in order to stop them from having another he tracked back to dispossess Morales and launch a one-man counter of his own. He was tripped, pulled and eventually body-checked. He wouldn’t go down, he wouldn’t quit. He was on another level and Barça were pulling away.

The confidence was contagious; Andrés Iniesta scooped the ball towards the back post and found Lionel Messi on a rare venture into the Levante area and typically Messi skipped between some challenges before a stray leg caught his and brought the Argentine to the turf. Both Vyntra and Tono were guilty, and the referee pointed the spot – he had no choice, although ironically, he could pick which one of the Levante offenders would be punished. He chose Vyntra and the Greek defender received his marching orders – a straight red. Would Messi convert the penalty?

Surprisingly, he would not. Stepping up with his usual confidence, Messi blazed the penalty well wide of the mark. In truth, it was a shocking penalty – he’s no Cristiano Ronaldo after all...

Not that it would matter. In minutes, Barcelona would have their second and in some style. Who cares about scoring from the spot when you can score with a missile from outside the area? That’s probably Ivan Rakitić’s motto as the Croatian deity added another page to his midfield Bible with a stunner.

Just try to disagree: Rakitić knew where the ball was going to drop, was in a position to capitalise, and well, if that shot doesn’t qualify as an example of super-human power, I don’t know what will. His laser-guided missile of a shot extended Barça’s lead to two and probably killed the game off as a contest. Levante were down to ten men, without a goal in over 300 minutes of football and were facing the prospect of another 45 minutes against an in-form Neymar and Lionel Messi.

It wasn’t looking bright for Jose Luis Mendilibar and his side, but at the interval, Luis Enrique had every reason to be ecstatic with his team’s display.


After ending the first-half on a high, Barcelona entered the second-half full of confidence and could have added a third almost immediately after the restart – Andrés Iniesta was teed up nicely on the edge of the area only to fire well over the bar. Still, it was encouraging and more goals seemed to be on the way before Levante threw an obstacle onto the road, injuring Neymar with a hefty challenge out on the touchline.

The Brazilian forward was down for quite some time off the field as play continued and eventually seemed to have shaken the blow off, but Lucho had already made up his mind. Neymar would play no further part in the match and Sandro would be his replacement.

Following a man of the match display in the first 50 minutes, Neymar was understandably miffed at the decision but if it keeps his fit and firing for Wednesday’s trip to Andalusia then I’m all for it. This game was over anyway; why not blood a few youngsters?

Why not indeed...

Barcelona weren’t even out of second gear and they were still too strong for Levante. Sergio Busquets’ split the defense with a superb slide-rule pass to set Lionel Messi through on goal, and rather than take on his man, Messi elected for the simple, selfless option: stab the ball sideways to find a teammate in space, Sandro Ramirez.

Running onto Messi’s perfectly weighted pass, Sandro didn’t even take a touch to compose himself – he had ice running through his veins and made light work of the finish, slotting the ball into the corner without even breaking his stride.

Three goals up and coasting to victory, this was turning into an easy night’s work for FC Barcelona. With Atletico Madrid dropping points at home to Celta Vigo, Barça had a chance to move four points clear of last year’s champions, not to mention retain their six point lead over Real Madrid and they were delivering on that with ease.

Levante were defeated in every sense of the word; Barcelona were running rampant and before long, the fourth goal followed suit. It was too easy. Mathieu helped it out wide to Jordi Alba, who burst forward and diagonally inside, where he could play a one-two with Sandro. An out-an-out striker by trade, Sandro’s La Masia schooling made the difference in this play as he played it back into Alba’s path with an adept back-heel. The Levante defense were left behind, playing catch-up and Alba capitalised by cutting the ball back to Pedro who duly converted the easy chance.

Walking the ball into the net, Barça were 4-0 up and had another half-hour to get more.

In amidst all this dominance, it was easy to miss that Xavi had entered the fray. Replacing previously booked Sergio Busquets, Barça were testing something new – Rakitić at pivote. Thankfully, Rakitić is a bona fide don all over the pitch, so it made little impact on Barça’s fluidity and control in midfield.

Sergi Roberto was the next and final substitute as Lucho flexed his managerial might with another smart change, conserving the precious energy of Andrés Iniesta for the final 20 minutes. Yes it was “only” Levante, but this was another managerial masterclass from Lucho. From start to finish, we had dominated this fixture and every other that we have played this far this season.

Not only have we emerged victorious on each occasion, but the result has never really been in question at any point. We’ve been consistently better than any given opponent at any given time throughout five matches – that’s something to be proud of, and perhaps something that we haven’t seen since the Guardiola era.

If we’re being picky, then maybe we have been a little shaky up until the opening goal, but again, always in control even if the scoreline doesn’t reflect it.

And when the scoreline does? Well...this Barcelona could well be something special.

Four goals up and still hungry for more. Messi wanted his goal and fired a warning shot, testing Fernandez with a powerful effort around the 75 minute mark before following it up a minute or two later with a sumptuous chip. Teasing the Levante defense, Messi spotted the Levante keeper was well off his line and lifted the ball goalwards, with his right foot no less. The end result was obvious – a Messi goal and a Manita for Barcelona.

For Levante, there were still over 10 minutes left to endure.

Sure enough, with nine minutes left on the clock, Barça nearly got their sixth. A sublime pass from Xavi found Jeremy Mathieu on the overlap and the Frenchman used his height to head the ball back across goal but the spin on his pass ensured Pedro couldn’t get the decisive touch required to convert. And with that, Barça’s best chance at a sixth went and gone, not that it mattered. We’d done the damage, we’d secured the three points long ago and moved back into top spot in La Liga.

The 100% record continues; Barça have now gone 450 minutes of regulation time, plus loose change in extra-time and stoppages without conceding and through five matches, we’ve scored 12 goals from six different scorers. In short, we’ve been unstoppable – long may it continue.

Next up, FC Barcelona travel to Andalusia where they will contest Jornada 5 against Malaga CF at La Rosaleda. Until then, Visca el Barça!

Roll Call Info
Total comments 643
Total commenters 59
Commenter list ALongTimeLurker, Abdul95, Anders Thomassen, Anirudh_Kul, BarcaLifer, Bostjan Cernensek, Catalan_Blood, Chatchai Chotiput, Daxterflames, Eddie Pundell, El_Illusionista, FCB4Ever, G0Barca, Giancarlo8, GoBarca, Inder Methil, Jonni, LA495, LaSenyera, Maaz Rehman, Neyssi, NoImagination90, PG9, PatrickJM6, Petter Premberg, Richzorz, Ruy Diaz, Som-i-Serem, Staralfur, Steven Cordero, Tokjee, Uncharted_Almo, VarkeychanT, ViscaViscaBarca, Vivek17, Waje.y, Willis1984, ade fox, askhanna, cgill424, craig00000, culeforever, darkice, david.james, defeaning_silence, feeya7, hobo_barca, jackpiratecaptain, milesbarca, msalmanz, oneeyeg, papant7, robyn_bird96, saijaikumar, sharma.himanshu.83, syredeathtrooper, uday kakoti, waseem10, whoaitsdwardy
Story URLs
# Commenter # Comments
1 Bostjan Cernensek 62
2 craig00000 54
3 Daxterflames 50
4 msalmanz 41
5 cgill424 37
6 papant7 34
7 Anirudh_Kul 32
8 Anders Thomassen 32
9 Som-i-Serem 27
10 robyn_bird96 24
11 feeya7 23
12 syredeathtrooper 22
13 Uncharted_Almo 20
14 El_Illusionista 17
15 jackpiratecaptain 15
16 Inder Methil 12
17 Steven Cordero 11
18 Neyssi 10
19 FCB4Ever 10
20 saijaikumar 9
21 NoImagination90 9
22 PG9 8
23 Eddie Pundell 7
24 hobo_barca 7
25 Waje.y 6
26 waseem10 5
27 david.james 5
28 Staralfur 5
29 milesbarca 4
30 Giancarlo8 4
31 BarcaLifer 3
32 Catalan_Blood 3
33 ALongTimeLurker 2
34 ade fox 2
35 uday kakoti 2
36 Ruy Diaz 2
37 LA495 2
38 Willis1984 2
39 LaSenyera 2
40 GoBarca 2
41 Chatchai Chotiput 1
42 darkice 1
43 defeaning_silence 1
44 oneeyeg 1
45 Richzorz 1
46 whoaitsdwardy 1
47 Maaz Rehman 1
48 Jonni 1
49 Tokjee 1
50 VarkeychanT 1
51 culeforever 1
52 Vivek17 1
53 askhanna 1
54 ViscaViscaBarca 1
55 Petter Premberg 1
56 PatrickJM6 1
57 Abdul95 1
58 sharma.himanshu.83 1
59 G0Barca 1

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