Barcelona’s amazing start to the season looks set to continue, as they thrashed bottom-dwellers Levante 5 – 0.
There were five different names on the scoresheet, which highlights a strong team performance, But Lionel Messi yet again took centre stage with a goal and two assists to his name.
Given that Barcelona put seven past Levante in the corresponding fixture last season, a goal glut was always on the cards, with a Levante red card helping Luis Enrique's side considerably.
South American connection
The home side were on the back foot for much of the affair, relying mostly on the counter attack, while the visitors monopolised possession, pressing and probing for an opening.
The best opportunities of the opening 30 minutes fell to Neymar, who first fired a shot straight into the body of Jesus Fernandez before heading wide from a wonderful through ball from Mascherano.
The Brazilian squandered good chances, but on his first La Liga start of the season, he put his side in front.
The Messi-Neymar combination which proved very effective against Athletic Bilbao combined again, as the Argentine picked out Neymar, who rounded Jesus and scored his third in two matches.
Buoyed by their first, Barca slowly started to find their rhythm, and were gifted an opportunity to double their lead from the penalty spot.
Messi beautifully controlled an equally exquisite through ball in the area and skipped past Tono and Vyntra, who both seemed to bring him down in the area. Vyntra was the one penalised and subsequently sent off.
The Argentine showed such quality in winning the penalty, but his powers deserted him as his stepped up to take the spot-kick, which flashed wide of Fernandez’s goal, his thirteenth career penalty miss.
The forward’s poor spot-kick was atoned for on the stroke of half time by Ivan Rakitic, who scored his first in Barcelona colours in emphatic fashion. Barcelona’s last attack was only half-cleared by Levante, and the ball fell to the Croatian, who rifled the ball past a despairing Fernandez from 30 yards.
Unfortunately for Neymar, injury forced him off as he was getting into his stride. It seemed a precautionary measure, as the Brazilian endued a heavy fall onto his back, an injury he sustained during the World Cup.
His replacement Sandro Ramirez, who scored the winner at Villarreal at the start of the month, took over the scoring mantle, finding the goal within five minutes of his introduction.
Messi was again the provider, as he drew a number of defenders towards him, before picking out the unmarked teenager, who finished well.
Barca were in cruise control, and resulted to playing the silky, incisive football with which they have become synonymous. By the fourth goal, Luis Enrique’s side were practically walking the ball into the back of the next.
Sandro was involved, as his clever flick put the ball into the path of marauding full-back Jordi Alba, whose square pass gave Pedro the simple task of poking the ball into a near empty net.
Lionel Messi’s powers of creativity were on show today, but the striker was clearly desperate for a goal of his own, and keen to make amends for his penalty miss. And after three matches (a drought by Messi’s lofty standards), he found the back of the net.
The Argentine magician picked the ball up on the edge of the area with Jesus Fernandez already committed, he found space and chipped the ball over everyone and into the goal, sealing a comfortable and comprehensive Barcelona win.
Levante: Jesus; Pedro Lopez, Vyntra, Rodas, Tono; Mate, Diop, Camarasa; Víctor, Barral, Morales. Subs: Marino, El Zhar, Garcia, Xumetra, Perez, Ivanschitz, Sissoko
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Mascherano, Mathieu, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Pedro, Neymar, Messi. Subs: Ter Stegen, Montoya, Piqué, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Sandro, Munir