Copa del Rey champions suffer defeat in Valencia but look forward to the chance to set things straight in next Thursday’s second leg
FC Barcelona suffered a rare defeat in Thursday’s Copa del Rey round of 16 visit to Levante. But in seven days from now, they will have the chance to make amends and continue their quest to win an unprecedented fifth consecutive title when the two sides meet again at Camp Nou.
And that task was made a whole lot lighter when Philippe Coutinho converted a penalty five minutes from the end.
With such heavyweights as Leo Messi and Luis Suárez not even on the bench, it was an unfamiliar Barça line-up at at the Ciutat de Valencia, with Jeison Murillo making his first team debut in a defence that also included Juan Miranda and Chumi of Barça B.
That wasn’t all that was unfamiliar about Barça, who found themselves trailing by two goals after just 18 minutes.
The players had barely warmed up when Erick Cabaco headed in from a free kick, and then a defence-splitting move involving Emmanuel Boateng and Borja Mayoral put Levante, the side that Barça crushed 5-0 at the same place in a Liga fixture less than a month ago, into a shock 2-0 lead.
The visitors were quick to react, and what followed was an onslaught on Aitor Fernandez’s goal. Chance after chance fell before the break, with Ousmane Dembélé and Malcom twice coming the most frustratingly close.
Sergi Roberto and Clement Lenglet raised the experience level after the break, but Jasper Cillessen was often the busier of the two goalkeepers as Levante pushed hard in search of an even bigger head start when these sides meet at Camp Nou next Thursday.
Barça had to wait until the 85th minute before they finally got one back, and the all-important away goal will count for diamonds in the second leg. Coke brought down Denis Suárez and Coutinho stepped up to take, and confidently convert, a penalty that could prove decisive in deciding which of two ‘blaugranas’ will be advancing to the quarter finals..