FC Barcelona laid to rest the memories of their last visit to the Ciutat de Valencia by absolutely storming their way to victory against the side that was sixth in the table going into this weekend’s matches.
The Leo Messi legend was furthered as he completed a staggering 31st Liga hat-trick, with Luis Suárez opening the goal-fest after 35 minutes and Gerard Piqué rounding off the night’s work with two minutes left.
Messi and Suárez now have 25 goals between them this season, more than most teams can boast, and for the eighth calendar year of the last nine, the Argentinian has clocked up 50+ goals.
But much as the night ended on a glorious note, after the first half hour this was still a game that could have gone either way.
Forced to improvise with three centre backs following Nelson Semedo’s late dropout with a knee problem, Barça took their time to get to grips with the match.
In fact, Levante probably should have gone ahead when Emmanuel Boateng rattled a simple chance onto the underside of the bar, a matter of moments before Luis Suárez was volleying home a Messi assist at the other end.
Just before the break, an error in the Levante midfield sent Messi firing away on his own, and we’d be going into the break two goals to the good.
The game was barely back under way before Messi was celebrating yet another goal, with Luis Suárez and Jordi Alba providing a build-up that was as exquisite as that leading to goal number four, and Messi’s hat-trick, this time with Suárez and an admirably unselfish Arturo Vidal setting their illustrious team-mate up for a simple tap-in.
With Levante down to ten men after Erick Cabaco hacked Ousmane Dembélé to the ground, the win was totally assured and all that remained was for Barça to ruthlessly go a-hunting for even more goals.
Chances there were aplenty, and goal number five finally came from the feet of Piqué, finishing off a move that he himself had started way back in his own area.
The win leaves Barça sailing at the top of the Liga pile, and was number 323 for Messi in the competition – thus moving ahead of the club’s previous record holder, Xavi Hernandez.