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Barcelona 4 Levante 1: Mixed penalty fortunes for Messi in routine win

Second-half goals from Marc Bartra, Neymar and Lionel Messi helped Barcelona to a 4-1 La Liga win over Levante at Camp Nou on Sunday, with the Argentine superstar’s penalty miss not proving decisive.

The Catalans created numerous chances in the opening 45 minutes, yet sloppy finishing prevented them from opening the scoring.

They more than made up for it after the interval, though, as Bartra, Neymar and Messi all found the net within the space of 11 minutes to effectively put the match to bed.

Victor Casadesus did pull one back for Levante, but they were never able to really threaten Barca in the remainder of the game.

Messi, having already netted from 12 yards, blasted a second penalty over the crossbar in the 75th minute but did double his tally with a trademark finish right at the end.

The victory sees Barcelona leapfrog Real Madrid and three others to the top of the table again with a maximum 12 points from four games.

Barca did not need long to open up the Levante defence as Messi found Munir after a quick combination with Neymar, but the young attacker only hit the side-netting in the sixth minute.

Messi tried his luck himself just minutes later after a mazy dribble, but his first attempt was blocked by a defender, while his second lacked the power to trouble Ruben between the sticks.

The hosts continued to push for the opener as Neymar, Munir and Sandro were all guilty of wasting opportunities.

Barca were fortunate not to concede after they were hit on the counter-attack, with Nabil Ghilas losing his cool after racing past Javier Mascherano, blasting his shot wide from close range.

But the deadlock was finally broken in the 50th minute and, unsurprisingly, Messi was right at the heart of it as he sent in an inch-perfect cross for Bartra and the defender chested it down before tapping home from close range.

In celebration, Bartra held up the shirt of team-mate Rafinha, who suffered a serious knee injury in the midweek Champions League draw at Roma.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors after the opener and Neymar soon made it 2-0. Ruben failed to punch clear Dani Alves’ cross and the former Santos man added his name to the scoresheet after his initial attempt was blocked by a defender.

All that was missing for Barca was a goal from Messi, but the 28-year-old righted that wrong at the hour-mark when Neymar earned a penalty after he was brought down by Angel Trujillo, allowing Messi to hammer home from 12 yards.

The away side refused to give up, however, and reduced the deficit in the 65th minute as Marc-Andre ter Stegen misjudged a cross from the left and Casadesus had little trouble finding the empty net.

After earning a second penalty, Messi was unable to hit the target this time but he did clinch his brace in the 90th minute with a crisp low finish into the bottom-left corner to cap a resounding success.

Sun 20 Sep, 2015
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