Levante 0-2 Barcelona: League leaders three clear after hard fought win
By Pete Hall
Last Updated: 07/02/16 5:35pm
Barcelona moved three points clear at the top of La Liga after a hard fought 2-0 win at struggling Levante.
The hosts' skipper David Navarro put the ball into his own net to give Barcelona a first-half lead, but the league leaders had to cope with an excellent response from Levante, who hit the post in their quest for an equaliser.
Luis Enrique, who was taking charge of his 100th Barcelona match in the city of Valencia, would not have been impressed with what he witnessed though, as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez all put in ineffective showings.
Suarez did net a stoppage-time second to make sure of the victory, but the scoreline was harsh on Levante, who deserved something for their endeavours.
Nonetheless, the win gives Barcelona a three-point lead at the top, with a game in hand over Atletico Madrid, while Levante remain bottom despite a spirited showing.
Barca looked in imperious form coming into this encounter, having dismantled Gary Neville's Valencia in midweek, but appeared to be jaded in a laboured display against the La Liga strugglers.
Somewhat against the ruin of play, Navarro put through his own net to give Barcelona the lead after 21 minutes. Andres Iniesta had played in Jordi Alba, who looked to pull the ball back for Lionel Messi, only to see the Levante captain inadvertently divert the ball in.
Suarez should have doubled his side's lead moments later, but he could only steer the ball wide of the post from point blank range.
After that miss, it was all Levante. Acosta Deyverson had several acrobatic efforts, but Jose Luis Morales came closest to an equaliser, as the post denied him after he broke clear of the Barca defence.
Little changed after the break, but the league's bottom side could not create that killer chance.
Ivan Rakitic darted between his markers from a corner just after the hour mark, but headed straight at Diego Marino as Barca pressed for a second.
Levante came again. Former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi did brilliantly to pick out Deyverson after dropping deep to pick the ball up, but his flick-header was easily gathered by Claudio Bravo in the Barcelona goal.
The hosts got more and more desperate as the match wore on, and the Catalan giants capitalised to make sure of the victory.
Messi had plenty of time to pick out Suarez as Levante had only one man back in stoppage time, and the Uruguayan made no mistake, as he had time to pick his spot to secure a vital three points for the below par treble winners.