[MATCH REPORT] Levante v FC Barcelona: Three hard-earned points (0-2)

Jordi Alba's cross led to the own goal that got Barça off the mark on Sunday / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
A Levante own goal and a late strike from Suárez splits the sides in Sunday’s battle between the top and bottom teams in La Liga

Luis Enrique said before this match that he was taking nothing for granted against the team currently propping up the Liga table. Levante need points and have used the transfer to considerably strengthen their squad. And the effects showed as Barça were forced to battle much harder than many would have predicted to collect three more points and complete a record-equalling streak of 28 official matches without defeat.  

Gifted goal

A strong starting eleven came charging off the blocks and Messi had the ball in the net after just three minutes, with the flag going up for a questionable offside call.

Unperturbed, the visitors continued to pile on the pressure and were finally rewarded after 21 minutes with a little help from Levante’s David Navarro. Jordi Alba’s cross from the right struck the centre-back on the backside and the ball rebounded into the back of the latter’s own net. Not the most elegant of goals, but nonetheless Barça thoroughly deserved to be in the lead.

As the half progressed however, Levante started to get more and more into the match, and had a number of chances to equalise, the closest coming when Morales ended a powerful run by sending the ball onto the post, while Barça came closest to extending their lead when Neymar Jr was defied by some fine goalkeeping from Mariño.

The half ended with Barça still a goal to the good, but with Levante having out-shot Barça by 7 to 5, the game was anything but over.

Gritty battle

After the break, Barça continued to struggle to gain complete control of the game, the strong wind doing nothing to help their cause. Levante defied their lowly ranking in the league by creating an unexpected amount of pressure, with the Catalans finding it hard to get the ball into positions where they could generate real danger. And when Messi did find the net he was called for offside again, only this time correctly.

As the clock ticked by, there was a sense of anticipation among the home fans that they might be on the verge of seeing their side do something special, although other than a fine save off a Rossi strike, there was very little that truly tested Bravo.

As Levante made one last push, they left themselves more and more vulnerable at the back, and it was on the counter-attack that they were finally caught out. With the game now into injury time Messi broke down the right and slipped the ball into the path of Luis Suárez. The Uruguayan tucked the ball home and at long last Luis Enrique could relax. Three very hard-earned points were finally in the bag.