Barcelona smash Levante to stay perfect
La Liga, Ciudad de Valencia - Levante 0 Barcelona 5 (Neymar 34', Rakitic 44', Sandro 57', Pedro 64', Messi 77')
Barcelona maintained their perfect start to the season with an impressive 5-0 win over 10-man Levante, although an injury to Neymar will be of concern to manager Luis Enrique.
Neymar provided the brightest spark for Barca in the first half, scoring the opener before the sending off of Loukas Vyntra gave his side full control. But a back injury saw the Brazilian withdrawn after 50 minutes.
Following Real Madrid’s 8-2 win over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday the pressure was on Barca to respond, and that’s what they did after making no less than eight changes to the side that faced APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League during the week.
Neymar opened the scoring after 34 minutes, latching on to an inch-perfect Lionel Messi pass to round the on-rushing goalkeeper and finish into the empty net. Barca were awarded a penalty soon after when Messi was brought down in the box by Vyntra, who was shown a straight red card. But the Argentine bizarrely blasted his effort from 12 yards well wide.
Ivan Rakitic found a second goal for the visitors on the stroke of half time, smashing a shot from 20 yards into the top corner following a poorly cleared corner kick. Sandro Ramirez, who replaced Neymar, netted the third goal following an excellent passing move from Barcelona, which presented the teenager with the simple task of finishing into the empty net.
Pedro Rodriguez added a fourth after the hour mark, when Jordi Alba cut the ball back from the byline with the goalkeeper off his line for the Barca winger to convert. And Messi finally found the goal his overall performance deserved with an exquisite chip over Jesus following a calamitous piece of goalkeeping, returning Barcelona to the top of the Spanish Liga table.
14’ - CHANCE: What a chance for Levante! Mathieu gets caught out, allowing Morales to get in behind the Barcelona defence, but his pass across the face of goal is cut out by Rakitic before it reaches Camarasa.
34’ - GOAL! Levante 0-1 Barca: Barcelona have the lead! Messi plays a wonderful pass through to Neymar, who rounds Jesus in the Levante goal and finishes into the empty net.
43’ - MESSI PEN MISS! Messi steps up to the penalty kick and absolutely blasts his effort wide of the target, with Jesus diving in the opposite direction. He is human after all. That was a terrible miss, too.
45’ - GOAL! Levante 0-2 Barca: What a strike from Rakitic! A corner kick is half cleared by Levante, but the Croatian smashes a shot into the top corner from 20 yards.
59’ - GOAL! Levante 0-3 Barca: What a simple goal for Barcelona! Messi is played down the right channel, before squaring for Sandro, who finishes with ease.
67’ - GOAL! Levante 0-4 Barca: Barcelona walk the ball into the net for their fourth goal. Alba cuts the ball back from the byline, with the keeper out, for Pedro to finish into the empty net.
77’ - GOAL! Levante 0-5 Barca: He finally has his goal. Awful goalkeeping gives Messi the chance to chip over Jesus with the Levante number one 10 yards off his line.
Lionel Messi has now missed penalty kicks over the course of his Barcelona career.
Messi has been directly involved in more goals than any other player in La Liga this season (three goals, four assists).
Messi has been involved in six of the last eight goals scored by Barcelona in La Liga this season.
Barcelona have yet to concede a goal in four La Liga goals this season.
Has Luis Enrique finally given Barcelona a strength in depth? Even at the height of Barcelona’s dominance under Pep Guardiola, their Achilles heel was their lack of strength in depth. Barca have for the past few years always had a very small core to their squad, but Enrique made eight changes to the side that played in the Champions League during the week, and still managed to keep the level of play very high. The signings are that he will continue to rotate his squad throughout the season.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Lionel Messi: Had Neymar stayed on the pitch for the full game he might have been awarded Man of the Match, but Messi was the man pulling all the strings for Barcelona at Levante. He has now provided six assists in his last four games and capped his performance with an excellent, chipped goal.