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Barça stay just one point adrift of top spot in La Liga after beating Levante to the tune of five goals to no reply in Sunday’s game before 74,963 spectators at the Camp Nou.
Luis Enrique made eight changes to the team that started midweek against Villarreal, with Suárez, Jordi Alba and Piqué among those on the bench. The manager had said in his pre-match press conference that this would not be as simple a game as some suspected, and for much of the first half that did indeed prove to be the case. Although Barça had the best of the play, Levante by no means looked out of their depth, belying their lowly position in the league table.
Pedro, Messi and Rakitic all had early pops on goal, but Levante created plenty of danger too. The deadlock was finally broken after 16 minutes when Messi crossed to Neymar and the Brazilian looped a strange goal over the head of visiting keeper Mariño. Pedro could have finished off the move, but generously left the ball alone and allowed his colleague to claim the goal as his.
Unfazed by going behind, Levante continued to look lively, and could have equalised through David Barral shortly before Messi was through on goal when the referee incorrectly blew for offside. One minute later, the 37th, the Argentinian found himself in a similar position thanks to a fine through ball from Bartra and his classy finish made it 2-0. Barça could have made it three just before the break, but Messi uncharacteristically sent a relatively easy chance sailing over the bar.
If things had been tight in the first 45 minutes, the second was another story. Levante started to tire and almost all of the action was in and around their penalty area. After 58 minutes, a brilliant assist from Pedro found Leo Messi, and the latter scored his second of the afternoon to as good as settle the three points. Then after 63 minutes, Ivan López brought down Neymar in the area and the referee pointed straight at the spot. Up stepped Messi to take it, and he calmly completed yet another hat trick.
The most spectacular moment had yet to come, and the protagonist would be Luis Suárez, who replaced Neymar for the last 24 minutes. Just moments after coming on, he was on the receiving end of an Adriano assist from the by-line. The Uruguayan rose to meet it with a dramatic aerial scissor-kick that sent the ball thundering into the back of the net. A goal to remember and the perfect way to cap yet another convincing performance from Barça, who now have a match-free week before a second consecutive Liga match at the Camp Nou against Málaga on Saturday (4.00pm CET).
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