Levante 0-5 Barcelona
Barcelona ran riot at the Ciutat de Valencia tonight as Lionel Messi scored yet another hat-trick to fire the Champions three points clear at the top of La Liga.
Luis Suarez opened the scoring against an in-form Levante side, and then the man from Argentina simply destroyed his hosts, scoring three and making two assists as Gerard Pique added a late fifth.
The biggest La Liga 2018 news on Saturday was that Atletico had drawn level at the top with Barca thanks to a man-of-the-match performance from Antoine Griezmann, scoring twice and making the third in a 2-3 win away to Real Valladolid. Then Sevilla joined the leaders on 31 points after a 2-0 win over Girona, with Real Madrid ominously just a couple of points behind.
Despite things bunching up at the top of the league, the La Liga 2018 betting markets still have Ernesto Valverde’s team as odds-on favourites to lift the title again, with Los Blancos sneaking into second place in the running.
And a thumping win like this just goes to show the market knows what it’s doing!
Highlights of the game
Paco Lopez has Levante to eighth in the table, and Barca realised they were in for a game when Emmanuel Boateng forced Ter Stegen to make a good save low to his right.
But the champions soon got into their stride. Barca’s second string bossed the Champions League tie with Spurs in midweek but the big hitters were recalled for this key La Liga match in Valencia. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez started the game with 21 league goals between them, and Valverde put his faith in them to stretch the Levante defence. And the two combined well for Messi to fire in a shot which whistled just past the post on ten minutes.
Jason was a creative force for Levante and he produced a chance for Ruben Rochina but he had his effort blocked. Then Messi fired a shot towards the top right corner which was expertly tipped away by Oier. But there was little the Levante keeper could do on 35 minutes when Messi slid a ball to Suarez and the Uruguayan smashed it high into the top left corner.
Then, just before the break, Messi was on the end of a quick breakaway and put Barca 2-0 up with a cool finish past Oier.
The hosts could feel a little hard done to by the halftime scoreline, having had a good share of the ball and the shots on goal. But if they felt like they had an uphill battle during the break, it suddenly became a mountainous task just a couple of minutes into the second half when Messi was given too much space and slotted his second, and Barca’s third, low into the corner.
The little genius’ hat-trick came exactly on the hour and this time it was put on a plate for him. The industrious Arturo Vidal fired a ball across the six-yard box and Messi poked home from point-blank range.
There wasn’t a lot Levante could do about the scoreline, but Erick Cabaco lost his head and his place on the pitch, seeing red for a nasty assault on Ousmane Dembele to make it a night to forget for the hosts. Even more forgettable in the dying minutes when Messi set up Gerard Pique to fire home the fifth.
Levante was well in the game in the first half hour and finished the opening 45 with a level shot count of seven each. But Barcelona’s world-class strikers were clinical when the chances presented themselves and the champions went in two up at the break.
And while Levante still had plenty of the ball in the second half, the same pattern continued. Barca hit the target while the hosts fired blanks to make it three wins in three for Valverde’s men and a first defeat in four for Levante.
A four-game winless streak in the autumn stopped Barca from pulling away at the top of La Liga and that made it a more entertaining prospect for us football fans.
But Valverde’s men have shown they are the real deal yet again with this resounding win in Valencia. Barcelona faces another form side next weekend, when Celta Vigo visits the Camp Nou, up to ninth having taken seven points from the last three games.
Meanwhile, Levante visits Rayo Vallecano; and that’s a good chance for Lopez’ side to get back to winning ways against the 19th placed club, which has just suffered back-to-back defeats. They just need to forget about this game and move on.
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