The first half that ended without score didn’t offer much to write home about, but in stark contrast, the second 45 minutes at the Ciutat de València produced a blockbuster of a script. With three penalties against Barça, five goals, comebacks at both ends and all kinds of talking points, it was a game that had everything and more … and a very happy ending indeed.
Things could not have taken a worse turn after the restart, when a penalty was awarded against Dani Alves and Morales put Levante ahead, and just two minutes later the referee was pointing at the spot again! An Eric Garcia handball and this time Roger Martí accepted the taking duties. Ter Stegen guessed exactly where he had to go and that save got Barça out of a very tight spot. It also seemed to be the turning point for the vastly improved performance from that moment on...
Xavi sent on the young duo of Pedri and Gavi to shake up the midfield a bit (a switch he was already preparing before the second penalty). They took just three minutes to change things. Pedri started the move for Dembélé to deliver his 11th assist in the league this season, and Aubameyang was there to head in the goal that made it 1-1.
And just four minutes later there was a lovely run from Gavi to beat his man and pick out Pedri, and the latter placed his shot impeccably to send Barça into the lead, just eight minutes after they could have gone 2-0 down had the second penalty gone in.
Barça’s reaction was stalled by yet another penalty against them, this time after Lenglet clipped Dani Gómez, and Melero got the sides back level again. Xavi again looked to make changes, sending on Adama and Luuk de Jong. And there was the Dutchman to head in the winner and in doing so make Barça the first team in Liga history to win a game despite having three penalties blown against them.
It happened two minutes into injury time, with Jordi Alba providing the cross and De Jong finding the sweet spot with his header. Incredibly, in the last 20 minutes when he’s been on the field, he has scored three goals, and has also netted in three of the last four games in which he has been sent on as a ‘supersub’. Yet again, De Jong was the man to secure three points in a dramatic finale to a match. What a game!