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Lionel Messi tallied his first two goals of the season as FC Barcelona ran away from Levante in the second half on Sunday night, winning 4–1 at Camp Nou. Defender Marc Bartra opened the scoring five minutes after the break and was quickly seconded by Neymar. After a Messi penalty kick that seemed to slam the door shut, Levante’s Víctor Casadesús provided his side a brief glimmer of hope before Messi threw away the key with a killer strike in the waning moments.
The triumph makes Barça a perfect four-for-four on the season, keeping them at the top of the league table, as well as a perfect eleven-for-eleven all-time versus Levante at Camp Nou in La Liga. Levante remain winless on the season despite snapping a four-game league goalless drought at Camp Nou.
With a scoreless deadlock dragging on into the second half, it was Messi, from the right flank, who picked out Bartra, quietly nestled on the far side, for the game’s first score. Bartra settled Messi’s cross with chin and chest before sideswiping the ball and tucking it neatly inside the far post behind Levante goalkeeper Rubén García.
Just a half-dozen minutes later Neymar collected his own rebound right out in front and skillfully coaxed the ball through a thick underbrush of legs before it trickled into the net for Barça’s second score of the evening.
Four minutes after that, the Brazilian himself earned Barça a penalty kick when he was brought down in the Levante area. Messi placed the ball on the spot and two short steps later rifled it into the top shelf to make it 3–0.
Levante put the breaks on Barça’s momentum to claw one back in the 66th. Goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen was tardy coming off his line and Casadesús pounced, beating the sole blaugrana defender left standing.
A quarter-hour from time Messi was pulled down in the area and the crowd could sense, as they have become so accustomed, that the scoreboard was just heating up. But Messi’s second spot kick of the half went even higher than his first, too high in fact, and hurtled deep into the north stands.
Nevertheless, and as is often the case, Messi wasn’t done. In the 90th minute the Argentinian added one more after pulling in a loose ball in the Levante half and racing towards the goal before burying a shot low to Rubén’s right.
The opening half was a rather sterile affair with a dearth of opportunities for either side. The Catalans had the ball for what seemed to be a conservatively estimated 70% as play overwhelmingly unfolded not just on Levante’s half, but more often on their own third of the lush Camp Nou pitch.
Messi was his usual self out beyond the area, juking and deking his way around defenders and through seemingly inexistant lanes. But while he and his Barça cohorts had scant problems gaining depth, it was a clear lack of definition around the goalmouth that saw Luis Enrique’s men march into the intermission still searching for that elusive first goal.
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