Football

Barcelona thrash Levante to maintain winning start

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Barcelona made it four wins from four in the 2014/15 La Liga season with a comprehensive 5-0 thrashing of Levante at Ciutat de Valencia on Sunday.

Luis Enrique’s men maintained their 100% start and have now scored 11 goals without reply, one more than their opponents who are still to get off the mark this campaign.

Neymar opened the scoring after 34 minutes and Ivan Rakitic doubled the lead just before the break after Lionel Messi had missed a penalty.

Substitute Sandro Ramirez made it three with one of his first touches, while Pedro rounded off a neat move for number four. Messi completed the scoring when he capitalised on an error from goalkeeper Jesus Fernandez.

Bottom against top

It was bottom against top in Valencia and Barca made eight changes from their opening UEFA Champions League win against APOEL in midweek.

They reverted back to the team that overcame Athletic Bilbao with the exception of Neymar, who was awarded for his two goals in that game with a start ahead of Munir El Haddadi, and Dani Alves who returned from injury with Martin Montoya making way.

Levante picked up their first point of the season at Malaga last weekend, and Jose Luis Mendilibar made four changes from the draw with Hector Rodas came into defence replacing Mohamed Sissoko. There were also starts for Papakouli Diop, Victor Casadesus and David Barral, with Jordi Xumetra, Victor Perez and Rafael Martins making way.

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Barcelona on the front foot

The hosts had only beaten their opponents once in 18 attempts, and they were very much on the back foot from kick-off. Jordi Alba fired across the face of goal after a nice move from the visitors, while Neymar had an effort well blocked by Fernandez.

At the other end, Les Granotes nearly hit Barca on the counter-attack but Barral couldn’t quite get the right contact with his head on Tono’s deep cross.

Neymar almost gave Enrique’s side the lead soon after as he reached Javier Mascherano’s long ball before the 'keeper, but could not take advantage as he headed wide of the target.

Neymar opener

He did not miss nine minutes later though when he latched onto Messi’s through ball and rounded Fernandez before finishing.

They should have doubled their lead eight minutes later when Andres Iniesta clipped a ball into the area for Messi, who was tripped by a combination of Tono and Loukas Vyntra. The referee gave a penalty and elected to send off the Greek defender, but the Argentine showed he was human as he blazed his spot-kick wildly off target.

Barca did double their lead before the break though as the hosts only half-cleared the ball and Rakitic fired it through the crowded area giving the 'keeper no chance.

Sandro impact

Sandro replaced an injured Neymar early in the second half and having scored the winner from the bench against Villarreal on matchday two, he made a similar impact this time around.

Sergio Busquets made an interception before playing a through ball for Messi, who squared the ball for an unmarked Sandro to slide home number three.

The fourth, which arrived seven minutes later, showed flashes of the Barcelona we know and love. A typical neat phase of possession resulted in Alba darting into the area after a one-two with Sandro and cut the ball across for Pedro to finish into the empty net.

While the fourth displayed true quality, the fifth was gift-wrapped for them by Fernandez. After gathering the ball, he threw it straight to Messi who needed no second invitation as he chipped the ball back over the 'keeper and covering defenders.

The verdict

After a couple of hard-fought victories, this was Barca at their best. They were able to really express themselves for the first time and they look very settled under Enrique who has got them playing some lovely stuff.

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Topics:
Lionel Messi
Football
Neymar
La Liga
Barcelona

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