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Messi Relieves Barca

FC Barcelona reduced the gap to the Champions League places, but by no means covered itself with glory in the 1-0 home win against UD Levante.

In the league, Barcelona has been falling behind for a while, but after the 3-0 loss to Juventus in the Champions League at the latest, there was a lot of pressure on the Catalans. A convincing home win against the 18th-placed team in the table was supposed to smooth the waters a bit.

But Levante not only sold itself dearly in the first 45 minutes at Camp Nou – and narrowly missed scoring the opening goal early on: De Frutos failed alone in the penalty area to beat the quick-reacting ter Stegen (12th). In turn, it was Braithwaite, whose shot was saved by keeper Aitor (16th). Levante again came dangerously close in the person of Dani Gomez, before the surprised Lenglet volleyed the ball over the empty goal (19th, 22nd). Griezmann had the last opportunity before the break, but his direct shot with his weaker right was too central (40th).

After the second half, the noose around the visitors’ necks tightened more and more, but Barça’s top-class chances remained in short supply. It wasn’t until minute 71 that Messi came close but, like his colleagues before him, failed to score against the brilliant Aitor. Five minutes later, however, it happened: De Jong sent Messi into the penalty area on the left, and his powerful left-footed shot bounced off the right inside post and into the goal – Aitor was on the ball again, but this time he couldn’t prevent the shot from going in (76th).

Messi himself could have removed the remaining doubts but failed with an attempted tunnel to Aitor (81st). In injury time, Barça coach Ronald Koeman then held his breath because a possible handball penalty – Umtiti blocked Morales’ attempt – was longer checked by the VAR after a long-range shot. Referee Ricardo de Burgos’ team ultimately decided against it. So, in the end, there was a lacklustre 1-0 win against the 18th in La Liga. 

The next match is on Wednesday, 17 December, but then the stakes will be much higher at home against leaders Real Sociedad.

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