MX23RW : Sunday, September 26 02:57:28| >> :120:15060:15060:
Sep 20, 2015 at 7.30pm UK at Camp Nou
Bartra (50'), Neymar (56'), Messi (61' pen., 90')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Casadesus (66')

Match Analysis: Barcelona 4-1 Levante

Sports Mole dissects the 90 minutes of action as Barcelona record a 4-1 win over Levante in La Liga.

Barcelona returned to the top of La Liga with a 4-1 win over Levante on Sunday evening.

All five goals came in the second period, with Barcelona being made to work against a stern Levante outfit.

Marc Bartra, Neymar and Lionel Messi all scored early in the second half to leave the hosts 3-0 ahead.

Levante's consolation came in the 66th minute when Victor Casadesus finished a loose ball from close range.

Messi had the chance to convert a second penalty 15 minutes from time, but blazed his effort over the crossbar. The Argentine was not to be denied late on, however, as he scored a second in the final minute.

Here, Sports Mole has dissected the 90 minutes of action at the Camp Nou.

Match statistics

Shots: 21
On target: 8
Possession: 69%
Corners: 4
Fouls: 8

Shots: 11
On target: 5
Possession: 31%
Corners: 3
Fouls: 16

Was the result fair?

There is no question that Barcelona deserved to collect all three points at the Camp Nou, but the final score is perhaps a shade harsh on Levante, who frustrated the home side for long spells of the contest. It was always going to be the type of game where Levante needed to score first in order to stand a chance, but when Bartra opened the scoring early in the second period, it was an uphill struggle for the visitors, who found themselves quickly 3-0 behind and indeed out of the match.

Somewhat strangely, Levante did not start playing until they were three goals down and might have scored more than the one they did manage. Not many teams go to Camp Nou and have 11 attempts, but Levante were a threat in the second half. The final score could actually have been worse had Messi scored his second spot kick, but 5-1 would have been harsh on a Levante team that played above themselves in Barcelona. It was an entertaining game and both teams certainly contributed to that.

Barcelona's performance

With Celta Vigo to come next week, head coach Luis Enrique made a whole host of changes. Among those that came into the team were Bartra, Adriano, Munir El-Haddadi and Sandro Ramirez, while there was a return at right-back for Dani Alves. It was unclear what formation would be adopted, but Messi took up a number 10 position, allowing Sandro to operate through the middle. It did not quite work in the first period, with Barcelona struggling to break down a stern defence. Indeed, there was not really a clear opportunity for the hosts in the first half, with half-chances, that fell to Munir and Messi, the best that they could manage. Levante's gameplan would have been to frustrate Barcelona for the first 45 minutes and that was indeed the case. It would not have been much of a surprise had Enrique decided to introduce the likes of Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez at the interval, but he stuck with those that started and that provided dividends.

Barcelona's first came from an unlikely source as Bartra started a move down the right, before getting on the end of a cross from Messi. A mistake from Levante's goalkeeper allowed Neymar to make it 2-0 and when Angel Trujillo brought Neymar to the ground inside the box, Messi stepped up to make it 3-0. At that point, the Catalan side were cruising, but a mistake from their goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen allowed Casadesus to score the game's fourth goal from inside the box. Messi had the chance to make it 4-1 less than 10 minutes later, but his second penalty was high and wide of the crossbar. In the end, that would have been enough for a hat-trick, as the Argentine added another in the final minute. It was far from vintage Barcelona on their own patch, but four goals and ultimately three points will have pleased everyone involved with the club. The changes did not impact on the final result and now the champions will have fresh players coming back for the Celta match, which will be a very difficult test. Overall, a good night for Enrique's team.

Levante's performance

A five-man defence has been a feature of Levante's set-up this season and it was not a surprise that was the formation chosen for the trip to Barcelona. The visitors were not really interested in attacking in the first half, with seven players lined up outside the box when the home side had possession of the ball. It was a plan that worked well and they might have taken the lead in the 28th minute when Nabil Ghilas found room inside the box, but the striker could only fire wide of the post. One goal would have given Levante something to grasp, but as well as they did in the first period, tiredness was always going to become an issue. Juanfran's experience at the heart of the back five proved vital, but his legs were never going to last against the sort of pressure that Barcelona were applying and their rear-guard was eventually worn out. That said, Lucas Alcaraz will have been far from pleased with some of his team's defending at the start of the second half.

Both of Barcelona's first two goals were avoidable from a Levante point of view, while a poor challenge from Trujillo handed Messi the perfect opportunity to make it 3-0. Having defended well for long spells, the visitors were 3-0 down just past the hour and the game had gone. As mentioned, they did start to play in the period that followed, but it was too little, too late in terms of the result. The away supporters at least had something to cheer when Casadesus found the back of the net, although more poor defending handed Barcelona another penalty and saw them concede a fourth late on. Whether Levante survive in La Liga this season is not going to depend on their results at places such as Camp Nou, but there were some positive signs. This result has left them in the relegation zone, however, and the unforgiving nature of La Liga suggests that it could be a difficult season for a team that were last relegated from the top flight in 2008.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Lionel Messi: Bartra had a solid game for Barcelona and deserves a mention, but the award just has to go to Messi, who scored twice on the night. The Argentine also set up his team's first goal with an excellent cross from the right. It was not quite the perfect performance from the 28-year-old, who missed from the penalty spot in the 75th minute, but he was once again the best player on the field.

Biggest gaffe

Both goalkeepers will be disappointed with certain parts of their performance, but Ruben's mistake for Barcelona's second goal was perhaps a little worse than Ter Stegen's down the other end. A fairly straight-forward cross from Alves came into the Levante box, but instead of claiming, Ruben flapped at the ball and it landed to Neymar, who eventually stuck the ball home from close range. It was a poor moment.

Referee performance

Referee David Fernandez can be pleased with his performance in Barcelona. The official only issued one yellow card and there was no argument about the decision as Verza clearly tugged Messi outside the box. Fernandez was also correct to award both Barcelona penalties and did well to turn down a late appeal from Ivan Rakitic following a tumble. It was a strong night of officiating from the Spaniard.

What next?

Barcelona: The Catalan outfit will attempt to make it five wins from five league games when they travel to in-form Celta Vigo on Wednesday evening.

Levante: Next up for Levante is a home game against Eibar on Wednesday.

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FC Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between AS Roma and FC Barcelona at Stadio Olimpico on September 16, 2015
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