In his pre-game presser, Luis Enrique stated that there would be no rotations for Sunday's clash against Levante. The show of force confirmed Enrique's beliefs that it wouldn't be a walk in the part despite Levante sitting at the root of the table and Barça sitting at the summit.
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With the hot midday sun beaming down on the pitch, the game got underway and there wasn't even two minutes on the clock before Barça had the ball in the net. Andrés Iniesta was floating on the edge of the area before sliding the ball into the path of Lionel Messi. The Argentine flicked it passed the keeper and into the net, however the offside flag was up. Replays showed that Messi was actually onside and the flag was incorrectly raised.
It was a lifeline for Levante who you expect would've collapsed if such an early goal stood. However, the home side were under immense pressure. With eight players sat deep, Levante invited pressure from Barça and the Catalans were looking for the precise pass that would allow a chance on goal.
But the home team weren't without a threat of themselves. There was always a risk of a quick counterattack and with Sergio Busquets being rested, the responsibility of stopping that fell to Sergi Roberto. He was performing well but then was caught too far up the pitch which allowed a chance down the left flank. The ball was whipped in but Deyverson could only direct the cross over the bar.
After that brief scare, it was goalkeeping heroics at the other end that kept the score level. Neymar cut in from the left and curled an effort with his right boot. Diego Mariño dived and got the vital fingertips on it to tip the ball wide.
Four minutes later though and he was powerless to prevent the ball going into the net. Jordi Alba overlapped Iniesta before firing a cross in towards the six yard box. The ball clipped Levante captain, David Navarro's hip and ricocheted into the goal. The skipper's face was a mixture of disappointment and bemusement as he wondered how that ended up in the back of the net.
It was 1-0 Barça and moments later it could've been two. Neymar got to the byline and drilled the ball along the ground to Luis Suárez. But, uncharacteristically, the Uruguayan's shot went wide from a couple of yards away.
Despite going a goal down and sitting at the bottom of the table, Levante weren't throwing in the towel. The tactic of absorbing pressure and then hitting on the break was working well and the chances were coming. A headed flick on from Deyverson allowed Jefferson Lerma to break away. It was a case of having too much time as he seemed to overthink it and dragged his effort wide.
It did not look like a top v bottom clash and Levante were looking just as likely as Barça to get the next goal.
The whistle blew on exactly 45 minutes and Enrique would've been disappointed that his team were not firmly in control. With a midweek game last week and another one on the horizon, it seems that this heavy schedule was catching up with the team.
Both teams emerged from the tunnel with Barça searching for the goal that would kill off the game and ten minutes after the restart, the ball was in the net. Luis Suárez, who was having a quiet game, found Messi. Again the Argentine put it in the net but again he was offside. However this time the call was correct.
Levante were no longer sitting deep and were having just as much control as Barça were. The hosts deserved to be level but couldn't create any real chances.
The 70th minute was approaching and Enrique introduced the man whose presence was visibly missing. Sergio Busquets entered the field in the place of Ivan Rakitić. Like many of the Barça players, Rakitić had struggled to get going in the game. Another player who had a game to forget was Dani Alves. A lot of Levante's danger was coming from Alves' wing and when he was attacking himself, the crosses weren't accurate enough. He was eventually swapped out for Aleix Vidal in the 74th minute.
The team was labouring to the 1-0 win but a counterattack allowed them to double their lead. Messi passed to Suárez and he finished neatly. The whistle blew with Barça getting the win but Levante can feel hard done by as they deserved to get something out of the game.
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