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The title is just six points away after Barça duly took three more from Llevant this evening in a game which proved much harder than many had expected against visitors whose solid defence gave Tito’s team few chances - and when the opportunities did come along the Llevant keeper played a blinder – even saving a penalty. This wasn’t the most exuberant Barça performance of the campaign, but the league leaders showed patience as they controlled the game and finally found a winner as the match drew to an end through Cesc. The league title is one step closer… but first, it’s time for Bayern!
Abidal starts after 14 months out
Barça started with four full backs in defence - Dani Alves, Adriano, Abidal - whose return to a starting line up after 14 months was roundly applauded - and Montoya. Up front Villa played a central role alongside Cesc, leaving the right flank for Alves. From the off Barça were in control, but the slow pace of the game and the visitors’ packed defence made it hard to pick a way through.
Navas saves Villa penalty
Even so, the Llevant keeper Navas was soon making his mark with a good stop from Thiago, then pushing aside a Villa penalty after Iniesta had been brought down in the box and again saving from the rebound as Cesc shot from almost point blank range. Iniesta was pulling the strings now and Barça continued to plug away at a very well organised opponent. A shot wide from Tello and another good stop from Navas from a long range free kick by Alves were the hosts’ best efforts before the break.
Llevant forced further back
Barça were perfect at the back – Abidal was putting in a brilliant performance – and the game was almost all being played on the edge of the Llevant box, where Villa was especially active. Llevant’s best chance came right at the start of the second half, when Acquafresca was denied after a doubtful looking off-side call. With the team losing a bit of precision, Vilanova brought on Xavi for Iniesta on 58 minutes and the pace of the game began to pick up.
Alexis makes his mark and Cesc seals the win
Pedro then came on for Thiago, as the team switched to a 4-3-3 shape with Cesc dropping back, whilst Llevant left just a lone striker, Acquafresca, up front and packed their own box. Finally, Alexis came on and he nearly set up Villa on 81 minutes, but the Spanish front man couldn’t quite steer it home, though the chance spurred the crowd on to get even more behind the team for the final minutes.
Now Barça switched into top gear and got their rewards on 82 minutes when Cesc fired past Navas from the edge of the box after Alexis had cut in from the right. That goal means Barça could lift the title next week at San Mames, but first the focus switches to Europe and Bayern.
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