Barcelona Battle to Win at LevanteApril 16, 2012
FC Barcelona had to come from behind to beat Levante 2-1 at the Ciutat de Valencia on Saturday night. After conceding to a Barkero penalty, Barça hit back with two goals by Messi.
Guardiola stuck with the same system that defeated Getafe three days earlier, featuring a three-man defence of Puyol, Mascherano and Adriano. A major absentee from the first team midfield was Andrés Iniesta, who took his place on the bench at kick-off.
Barcelona got off to a strong start, and went about creating a series of chances in the opening minutes. The first fell to Pedro, after Messi found the winger in plenty of space on the left side of the area. Pedro’s shot was straight at Munua, and the Levante ‘keeper managed to parry away one-handed.
Later Messi showed great strength to bring the ball down in the area after the Levante defence attempted to clear its lines. He held off two defenders and made space for a shot that went just over the bar.
Thiago then had two excellent chances to open the scoring for Barcelona, with two headers. The first went just wide after Alexis tricked his way to the byline and pulled a cross back. The second came from a Messi free kick – Thiago beat the offside trap but could only head straight at Munua, despite being in plenty of space.
Then, after 22 minutes, and with Levante’s first real attack, Barcelona conceded a penalty. Valdés was unable to gather a corner, and Busquets was adjudged to have handled the ball when he attempted to win possession back. Barkero was cool from the penalty spot, waiting for Valdés to dive to the right before firing it down the middle.
Barça were quieter after conceding – Levante got men behind the ball much faster, and space was hard to find. The best chance was crafted by Messi, who looped a delightful pass for Cesc, but Munua dealt with the midfielder’s header.
With only a win good enough to maintain the pressure on Real Madrid, Barcelona attacked with real ferocity right from the start of the second half. Cuenca replaced Xavi, and Iniesta soon came on for Pedro. It took some time for the chances to start flowing though.
Adriano forced an acrobatic save from Munua with a shot just outside the area. And straight after, Messi drew Barcelona level. He ran with the ball from deep and played a one-two with Alexis on the edge of the area. Messi strode onto the return pass and curled the ball inside the left post.
Ten minutes later Cuenca dribbled past Juanfran on the right edge of the area, but as he got away the left-back pushed him to the ground, conceding a penalty for his side. Messi stepped up and stroked the ball into the top-right corner, sending Munua the wrong way.
From there Barcelona were professional, keeping possession in the Levante half and closing out an important and hard-fought win.
1-0 Barkero (min 22)
1-1 Messi (min 64)
1-2 Messi (min 72)