Barcelona marked Luis Enrique’s 100th game as coach of the club with a 2-0 victory over La Liga’s bottom side Levante at Estadio Ciudad de Valencia on Sunday.
Luis Enrique completed a century of matches in all competitions at the Barca helm with an 80th win as Luis Suarez’s second-half stoppage-time strike added to an early own goal from Levante captain David Navarro.
The injury-time strike sent Uruguay star Suarez top of the Pichichi standings as La Liga’s leading goal-scorer this season ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, with Real Madrid in action away to Granada later in the day.
Despite not being as impressive as in the crushing 7-0 victory over Valencia in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, the Catalan giants did enough to re-open a three-point advantage over Atletico Madrid – 3-1 winners over Eibar on Saturday – at the Liga summit.
Barca were dangerous early on and took the lead after 21 minutes when Navarro inadvertently steered a cross from Jordi Alba beyond Levante goalkeeper Diego Marino, but Suarez missed a glorious chance to make it two soon after when he astonishingly missed the target from inside the six-yard box.
Levante looked dangerous on the counterattack and hit the post through Jose Luis Morales before half-time, continuing their strong showing after the interval, but Suarez wrapped up the win in the 92nd minute with a 10th goal in his last six outings.
Barca subsequently equalled a Spanish record – which they set under Pep Guardiola in 2010-11 – of 28 successive games in all competitions without defeat, having not lost since going down 2-1 away to Sevilla in October.
Levante came under pressure from Barca right from kick-off and almost fell behind inside the opening minute, Andres Iniesta clipping narrowly over from just outside the box after Marino failed to adequately clear Suarez’s cross.
Lionel Messi had a goal wrongly ruled out due to an incorrect offside decision two minutes later; Verza clearly playing the Argentine onside from Iniesta’s scything throughball.
The onslaught continued when Marino was forced to dive to his left and parry away Neymar’s attempt to curl an effort into the far corner, but the hosts’ resistance was broken in the 21st minute.
Iniesta fed Alba at the byline and Navarro diverted the left-back’s cross into the back of his own net.
Suarez missed a chance to double Barca’s advantage when he steered Neymar’s cutback wide from inside the six-yard box in the 25th minute, and Levante almost made the most of the reprieve before the break.
After Verza and Jefferson Lerma were unable to hit the target with their respective efforts, Morales raced in behind the Barca defence in a break down the left but, despite beating Claudio Bravo, was denied by the post.
Levante continued positively and within two minutes of the restart Giuseppe Rossi’s 20-yard strike was palmed away from the bottom-left corner by Bravo.
Luis Enrique’s team continued to control possession but struggled to create chances and it was not until Ivan Rakitic’s near-post header in the 59th minute that Marino was called into action again.
Levante were put to the sword in second-half injury time, Suarez finishing a counterattack led by Messi with a cool effort, the Uruguayan using the outside of his boot to guide the ball beyond Marino.