15 April 2012

Mascherano: "Chelsea first"

Mascherano stressed today that it would a mistake to focus on the Real Madrid game instead of Wednesday’s match at Stamford Bridge: “We’re in a Champions league semi-final”.

"We want to put the league out of our minds a bit and focus on Chelsea, because we have the chance of reaching the final of Europe’s top competition”. Speaking at Sunday’s press conference, Javier Mascherano left no-on in any doubt as to the players’ attitude in a week that will be key to the Club’s aspirations both in Europe and in La Liga.

Not surprisingly, he emphasised that the result of Wednesday’s match at Stamford Bridge will be vital in the outcome of the tie: “It’ll be a really difficult tie that will depend a lot on getting a good result in the first leg against a team that has always been characterised by their tremendous physical strength, and which has some really experienced players”.

"The main thing right now is Wednesday’s match. Afterwards, we’ll think about the league and Real Madrid. We’re in a Champions League semi-final and we have a great opportunity to reach the final. It would be a really big mistake to focus on Real Madrid first, because Wednesday’s match is very difficult and will go a long way to deciding the tie”.

The Argentine international believes there’s “no room for error” in any of the competitions at this stage of the season and is proud of the spirit shown by the players game after game, as demonstrated by the comeback against Levante: “Faith is the last thing you lose and we have faith in what we can do. Then it depends, because you never know in football, but it’s important we have the right dynamic. Obviously the victory [against Levante] in the Ciutat de Valencia strengthens us, above all because we maintained the team spirit. It’s alive and well and won’t be beaten and keeps fighting against the odds”.

However, by his own admission, Mascherano is not too keen to talk about the ‘what ifs’ and so doesn’t want to go into whether a win against Real Madrid on Saturday would bring the league title a little closer: “We are all aware that even if we win all our matches in the league we still depend on other results. Real Madrid have a four-point lead and we’ll have to see if we’re capable of beating them next weekend. It’s not in our hands. But what’s real right now is Wednesday, Stamford Bridge, Chelsea".

Finally, Mascherano confirmed that he’s happy about his current form: “When you have a run in the side and you see that things are going well for the team then you improve individually as well. I’m in a team that demands individual improvement. The fact is that each and every one of us has to give that little bit extra, the best we can, especially at this stage of the season”.

Messi and the squad

In answer to the question as to whether the team depends too much on Messi’s goals, Mascherano praised his fellow countryman’s goal scoring talents but also pointed to the contribution of other team-mates: “We know that we have a player who usually gives us at least a one goal or the final pass for other players. Messi makes the difference and having the best player in the world in your team means you tend to depend a bit on him because he’s goal-hungry and it’s very possible that in any match he can be the deciding element. But you have to say that sometimes it’s the goals of Cesc, Xavi, Alexis or Iniesta that have kept us alive”. (via FCBarcelona.com)

[Youth] CF Badalona 1 - 1 FCB Juvenil A

The group led for Òscar García was tied for the final game of the regular competition against badaloneses and can not regain the league title after Espanyol's win against Damm.

Barça has been much higher in the second half, but that has not been enough for the win.

High excitement in the final game the Division de Honor Juvenil. The Juvenil A of Barca's title was playing regular competition against Badalona, ​​one of the few computers that had not won this season. The azulgranas themselves depended on to be crowned champions and needed the win, but could not move from a tie, the same result as signed in the first round against badaloneses. Òscar García's team lost la Liga by just one point of difference, as Espanyol won the Damm 2-0.

Centennial Field has hosted a tough game. The guys have been Òscar García clear dominators of the first twenty minutes, but with little depth. The first highlight of the azulgrana set arrival has come at minute 13 of the hand of Miguel Ángel. The Barcelona player has started a move down the left wing, has outpaced the defense and has chutado badalonesa, but the home keeper stopped his intention. Dongou has tried building a few seconds after the ball game was in the penalty area, but has been successful and the rally has ended without further danger.

As the game approached half time, the Badalona has advanced its lines and has begun to star in some arrivals at the goal of Bañuz. The match was matched at times, and the locals have been about to break the illusions azulgranas on 29 minutes with a goal that has finally been annulled for offside. After this scare for Barça, the confrontation has continued with few opportunities, until Dongou almost opened the scoring in the last minute of first half with a shot that has ended up rejecting Hugo, the goalkeeper. The whistle indicating the half time break has sent a decisive encounter was left wide open for the second time.

The tension was palpable in the environment once it has started the second half. The Juvenil A playing it all within 45 minutes remaining, and also had the added pressure that Espanyol was winning against Damm. But the set of Òscar Garcia has controlled the nerves and proved he deserved the championship with its overwhelming dominance. In minute 60, Nando has become a penalty on Edu. A goal that a little closer to Barça for the title. But the joy was short-lived, because only two minutes after the Badalona has returned to equalize the match in one of the only times outstanding. Garrido, in a single game, has surpassed the azulgrana defense with a shot from close range to 63 minutes leaving the result at 1-1.

After the local goal, the game has become an offensive monologue of Barça. Barcelona fans wanted to win at any cost and have not stopped looking for him with a constant attack, but the ball would not go. Pol Calvet has been close to his side ahead on 65 minutes, and Ebwelle, which has emerged in this second half, has starred in many cases very clear, but lacked accuracy in the final meters. Miguel Ángel has sent the ball against the crossbar in the 84th minute.

Juvenil A has not stopped trying until the last minute, but after a corner kick that has ended in the hands of goalkeeper Badalona, has sounded the final whistle that Barca frustrated ambitions. La Liga was beyond the last game after taking the lead the previous day in the derby against Espanyol. However, the azulgranas have just a very positive season in which they have remained unbeaten at home and where only lost two games against San Francisco and Girona, and signed four draws, two precisely against Badalona in the outward and return journeys, and one against Espanyol and Cornellà. (via FCBarcelona.cat)

[Match Stats]
CF Badalona: Hugo, Rosell, Fabricio, Álvaro, Jebran, Dani, Garrido, Jorge, Cugat, Miguel and Anás.

FC Barcelona A: Bañuz, Edu, Grimaldo, Robert, Ayala, Samper, Ernesto, Quesada, Dongou, Miguel Ángel and Pol Calvet.

Goals: 0-1, Nando, min 60; 1-1, Garrido, min 63.

Referee: Jose Emilio Sánchez Aparicio.

Focus switches to Chelsea

The team arrived back from Valencia on Sunday morning and went straight to the Club’s training grounds for a warm-down session.

After the hard-fought win away to Levante, the players spent the night in Valencia before returning to Barcelona on Sunday morning. Immediately after touching down at Barcelona airport the players headed for the Club’s training grounds. A crowded schedule leaves no room to relax. On Wednesday, the reigning European champions face Chelsea in London and today’s training session marked the start of the final countdown to the first leg of the CL semi-final.

The players who took part in the win against Levante focussed on recovering tired muscles while the rest of the squad, including Seydou Keita, who rejoined the main group, worked out as usual. Afellay, who was recently cleared for a return to action by Club doctors though he did not make the trip to Valencia, took a full part in training today. Nine players from the reserve squad - Tello, Montoya, Masip, Carmona, Armando, Rosell, Sergi Gómez, Gustavo and Espinosa – joined the seniors for today’s workout.

The next training session will be held on Monday afternoon before the squad travels to London. The game between Chelsea and Barça will kick off at 8.45 pm on Wednesday. (via FCBarcelona.cat)

The best and the worst of Levante-Barça

BEST: La Liga, walking. Barça kept the pulse with Madrid after successfully settling one of the toughest games he had left. He almost wrecked the title and final goodbyes. But the comeback with two goals from Messi in the last half hour, did justice to the merits of a team that never gave up. Of having lost everything, went to put the league on fire. The Mourinho also failed and continue to four points. But next Saturday visit the Camp Nou. The dream of 'Tenerife XXI century "is more alive than ever.

WORST: Lack of success in the auction. Barça was complicated a game that could be peaceful if it materialized some of their good chances early. The team performed at a high level. In defense, the mean and attack. But, inexplicably, he had to appeal to the epic. At 1-0, the lift is locked Guardiola back and saw no way to break the lock up after the break. No one better for this than a 'locksmith' infallible: Leo Messi. There are none that can resist. Two golitos more ... and there are already 41 in the league. There is nothing. (via SPORT)

Chelsea - FC Barcelona: Same teams, different trajectories

Nine players in Barça’s starting XI that featured against Chelsea three years ago continue to play for Josep Guardiola’s team.

While Chelsea have won 4 titles since the 2008/09 season, Barça have claimed 13.

A lot can happen in three years and the paths taken by FC Barcelona and Chelsea, rivals in this season’s Champions League semifinal, prove it. The English team have won four titles (Community Shield in 2009, the 2009/10 Premier League and the FA Cup in 2009 and 2010) since Andrés Iniesta’s goal at Stamford Bridge in the return lef of the 2009 Champions League semifinal. Barça, on the other hand, have claimed 13 titles.

The basic makeup of the teams, however, have changed very little over these three years. Most of the players that featured in Chelsea’s starting XI against Barça in the 2008/09 semifinal are still with the team. The only players that no longer continue with the Club are Álex, Ballack and Anelka, while Cech, Bosingwa, Terry, Lampard, Cole, Malouda, Essien and Drogba are still part of the London-based team.

Of the 11 Barça players that played against Chelsea three years ago, 9 remain with the team. Only Touré and Eto’o have left. In the 2009 semifinal, the average age of the squads, however, was fairly different: 28 years and 10 months for Chelsea and 25 years and 11 months for Barça.

While Josep Guardiola continues to lead FC Barcelona, three different managers have graced the Chelsea bench since Guus Hiddink: Carlo Ancelotti (2009/11), André Villas-Boas (2011/12) and Roberto de Matteo, who started on the 4th of March. (via FCBarcelona.com)

Di Matteo is an advantage to Barça

The Blues play against Tottenham today's FA Cup semi-final, which the Italian sees as "a disadvantage for English clubs."

Roberto di Matteo, Chelsea since he was dismissed Villas-Boas, complains of the calendar that the Football Association submitted to the English teams. The Italian believes that out clearly affected compared to its rivals in Europe.

The Blues play today at 18.00 against Tottenham's FA Cup semi-final, three days before receiving the FC Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. Although the difference is not noticeable 'the blaugrana played yesterday at 22 hours', Di Matteo believes that we must rethink the theme "Planning for the season start of the competition needs to be revised and changed to not happen again in the future, "he argued. The coach explained that "the English teams have no advantage when European competitions, so we must check to have better planning."

However, the preparer is convinced that Chelsea has the tools to stand up to Pep Guardiola and his players are considered ready to spring a surprise against the blaugrana: "It's great to have players who are so experience in special occasions. For them, there will be a game of nerves because I have lived in many situations and semifinals and finals and all that helps. "A good result today that will allow them to reach the final, where they hoped Liverpool can also serve to tackle the semifinals of the Champions League with optimism: "A good result would be good for us." (via SPORT)

Juan Ignacio: "what is our honors"

I'm not a 'freak', but the attitude has been very good against a great opponent. We have cut channels and lines of play of a team full of genius, "said the coach of Levante.

Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martínez, said after his team suffered defeat against Barcelona, ​​his team has competed well in the four games he has played this year against Real Madrid and the Catalan side and the work of Levante is honors. "I'm not a 'freak', but the attitude has been very good against a great opponent. We have cut channels and lines of play of a team full of geniuses," he said.

On the penalty that he drew a whole, indicated that he wanted to throw balls away, but his line is to respect the arbitration work and the important thing for him was the commitment of its staff and against lethal can do . He regretted that after the 1-2 team did not have real opportunities to draw and also recalled that his goalkeeper, Gustavo Munúa, had not had to intervene in cases excessive.

Asked about the possibility of Real Madrid and Barcelona in la Liga, said that currently the favorite is the Madrid team, but in football anything is possible and also expressed condolences to Italian football and the family of Piermario Morosini died today during Pescara-Livorno encounter. (via AS)

[Barça B; Liga Aderante; Week34] Girona FC 1 - 1 FC Barcelona B

Eusebio's team has been a valuable point in the Catalan derby against Girona, but had to see how the local empataban the meeting in the final minutes of play.

Dos Santos has scored his second goal of the season, free-kick on 66 minutes.

Barça B has added its seventh straight day after signing a tie unbeaten in the area of ​​Girona. The azulgranas add a point that keeps them in the central part of the classification and allows them to face the final stretch of la Liga Adelante with confidence. However, Eusebio guys again lose the chance to beat at home, a feat not achieved since last November.

The rain has visited the estadio de Montilivi along the confrontation, but that has not prevented 7,242 spectators will enjoy the Catalan derby. During the first minutes of play Barça B has monopolized the ball and has taken control of the match, but the Girona While this situation has reversed as they moved the minutes with a good offensive approach that has allowed some coming star in significant Oier of goal, but not too much danger. The first time it has advanced without landmark occasions by both teams until Muniesa has made the first clear shot of the match on 20 minutes. The player of Lloret de Mar has tapped a rebound rojiblanca defense for local shoot on the goal, but Mallo has caught the ball.

The fans have been encouraged Girona with the opportunity of a team on 28 minutes. Coro has overcome azulgrana goalkeeper and has chutado with the empty goal, but the splendid Marc Muniesa intervention has prevented the home side opened the scoring. Only five minutes later, Girona have tried again. This time the arrival has been of Acuña, who was left alone to Oier, but has stopped Barcelona's intent.

After the local offense, the Eusebio Sacristán reacted and Riverola almost opened the light with a shot that's over the crossbar on 35 minutes. The game has continued fairly open, although the chances were still arriving, and after an attempt Rafinha at the last minute of the first part that has come out by little, the game has gone to the break goalless.

The second half began with the same dynamic with which he had finished the first. Few times and no significant arrival during the first few minutes by both teams, until it has reached Dos Santos. The Mexican opened the scoring with a goal-kick on 66 minutes. It was the second goal of the season Barcelona player.

The Girona, then, have been encouraged with the goal down and sought the reaction. Oier had to save several clear opportunities to the rojiblancos, as a Goiria shot on 75 minutes. But locals have continued trying until Acuña has given the tie to his team when only had five minutes left. Thus, the azulgranas have seen how he escaped two points in the dying minutes, but still in a good dynamic in the face of the final stretch of the regular competition.

Next week Barça B will host Murcia at the 35th round of the Liga Adelante. (via FCBarcelona.cat)

[Match Stats]
Girona FC: Mallo, David Garcia, Juncà, Migue, Juanlu, Tébar, Acciari (Gaizka Saizar, min 81), Moha, Acuña, Coro and Benja (Asier Goiria, min 64).

FC Barcelona B: Oier, Balliu, Bartra, Muniesa, Planas, Dos Santos (Dongou, min 89), Sergi Roberto, Riverola (Sergi Gómez, min 79), Rafinha, Rodri and Lobato (Carmona, min 66).

Goals: 0-1, Dos Santos, min 66, y 1-1, Acuña, min 85.

Referee: Sureda Cuena (Balear college).

Messi, 201 goals with Guardiola

Leo Messi has scored 201 goals for FC Barcelona since Guardiola took charge of the Barça bench. The player, with a spectacular average of 0.96 goals per game, has only needed 210 official matches to reach this goal-scoring mark.

Leo Messi’s name tends to be on people’s lips before and after FC Barcelona play a match. Today is no exception. The Argentine genius has scored 201 goals with Josep Guardiola on the Barça bench. It took Messi only 4 seasons to accomplish this feat (210 official matches). Since Guardiola decided to position Messi closer to the opposition’s goal, the Argentine has turned into a veritable goal-scoring machine, averaging 0.96 goals per game. With Rijkaard, under whom Messi made his debut on October 16 2004 against Espanyol, the striker scored 42 goals in 110 official matches (0.38 goals per game).

The best player in the world has consistently improved year after year. In his first season with Guardiola, 2008/09, he scored 38 goals in 51 official matches. In 2009/10, he scored 47 in 53 matches. Last season he scored 53 goals in 55 official matches. This year he already has 63 goals in 51 matches, averaging 1.2 goals per game. So far this season, he’s scored 41 goals in the Liga, 14 in the Champions League, 2 in the Cup, 3 in the Spanish Super Cup, 1 in the European Super Cup and 2 in the Club World Cup.

With 63 goals already scored this season, Messi is a strong contender for a slew of new records: he is in the running to claim his second Pichichi title in the Liga, he could finish the season as the highest goal scorer in the Champions League for the fourth consecutive season, he is close to winning his second European Golden Shoe (formerly known as Golden Boot) award and he’s only 5 goals back from Gerd Müller’s historic record of 67 scored goals in one season. (via FCBarcelona.com)

[His 201 goals]
Season 2008/09
38 goals in 51 matches

Season 2009/10
47 goals in 53 matches

Season 2010/11
53 goals in 55 matches

Season 2011/12
63 goals in 51 matches

Messi: "It was a very difficult ground to play in, but we managed to get a fantastic result"

The Argentine striker, who scored a brace in Barça’s win over Levante, is now focusing on the Champions League semifinal against Chelsea.

Lionel Messi refused to be drawn into a debate about his goal-scoring contest with Cristiano Ronaldo as he appealed to his teammates to maintain their good form in La Liga .

Vital victory at the Ciutat de València (1-2) which allows Barça to maintain the four-point gap with Real Madrid at the top of the table. After the match, Lionel Messi, with two goals, said he was very happy to win the three points against this season’s surprise team. “We knew it was a difficult ground, Levante are having a fantastic season and we managed to get a great result,” said Messi while walking off the pitch.

However, the Argentine highlighted the difficulty of taking on Juan Ignacio Martínez’s side: “at this point in the season every team is playing for something important. These matches are very complicated.”

On form and headed to London

After securing Barça’s 11th consecutive victory in La Liga, Messi congratulated his teammates for keeping the winning streak alive. “We have to continue like this,” said the Argentine, “now it’s time to think about Chelsea, this is the most important match. It will be more difficult than the match against Levante.”

Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have made history in La Liga as they are both level on top of the goal scoring chart. Both players, with 41 goals apiece, have shattered the previous record in their struggle to win the Pichichi award. Despite the ongoing duel, Messi highlighted the importance of the team’s success ahead of his own: “things are going well for us, but what’s really important is that we’re both fighting for La Liga title.

“I’m happy that I scored because the team won,” concluded Messi as he walked down the tunnel that leads to the dressing rooms.

Here are the statements made by FC Barcelona players after tonight’s match against Levante:

Víctor Valdés:

“Very hard-fought victory. I’m proud of the work that we did. I congratulate Levante for how they played, they are a very good team.”

Pedro Rodríguez:

“It was a very difficult match, we knew that it was a complicated ground to play in. They had the early advantage but we managed to fight back.

“We dominated the whole match. After the penalty against us it was more difficult because they closed themselves off and their defence is very strong. For this reason it was so difficult to mount a comeback, but our insistence to play on the wings allowed the team to fight back. We’re very pleased.

“We’re facing a very difficult week. We’ll work hard and prepare for our upcoming matches.

“It was hard to reduce the gap with Real Madrid. We’ll try to prepare for next Saturday's match well to keep our title hopes alive in La Liga. The Clásico is important to both us and them.”

Cesc Fàbregas:

“It’s clear that we can improve. It was a very difficult match but we managed it well.

“We’ve gained a lot of ground on Madrid. We went to the Vicente Calderón with a 13-point disadvantage and now were only 4 away. Despite it all, now it’s time to focus on Chelsea and forget about La Liga for a couple of days.

“This was one of our most difficult away matches, but we still have a few tough matches away from home. La Liga is still out of our hands. We won’t depend on ourselves even if we beat Real Madrid. There are a few matches left but the end of La Liga is still a long way off.

“Barça have a great fighting spirit, we’re very competitive.”

Thiago Alcántara:

“We stopped thinking about the Liga in the second half. We gave it our all and we can now enjoy one of our most difficult victories.

“This is a very complicated stadium to play in, Levante are a fantastic team.

“I’m willing to play in any position. The objective is to always look for the win.

“The Club’s philosophy is incredible. It’s a joy for us youngsters, we have to be thankful to the Club for giving us confidence.

“Chelsea is a very complicated rival, they’re a historic European club. It will be a beautiful playoff.”

Isaac Cuenca:

“It was fairly difficult, but we knew that what we were facing when we went up against Levante. It was complicated because they let us have the wings but it was hard to get good crosses in. In the end everything worked out and we won the three points.

“I believe it was a penalty, I was pushed and the linesman saw it and the referee called it.

“We’re going to give it our all in London to get a good result for the return leg at the Camp Nou.” (via FCBarcelona.cat)

Cardoner: “We have a winning Barça”

The FC Barcelona Social Area vice president said that the attitude displayed by the players after conceding the goal against Levante fills him with pride and that “we have a winning Barça.” He added, “in the end the team proves it.” Jordi Cardoner, who congratulated Levante for their attitude in tonight’s match, is especially satisfied with the fact that Barça “have once again shown that they are capable of fighting back after conceding a goal.” For the vice president, the penalties that were called at the Ciutat de València “were no decisive.”

Thinking ahead to Barça’s upcoming La Liga match, the Clásico, which will be played on Saturday at the Camp Nou, Cardoner is clear that “it will be a match that will win new fans over.” He added “I understand that nothing is said and done in La Liga until the end of the season.” Lastly, in the name of FC Barcelona, the vice president offered his “sincerest condolences” to the family and friends of Morisini. (via FCBarcelona.cat)

Guardiola: “Levante are one of the worst teams to have to fight back against"

The Barça manager highlighted the difficulty of fighting back after Bakero’s initial goal.

Guardiola praised Levante’s defensive organization and said that “they are where they are because they’ve done a good job”.

“It’s a little less impossible,” said Guardiola on Barça’s chances of winning the La Liga title.

Barça won three valuable points at the Ciutat de València to keep their La Liga title hopes alive. The team was forced to fight back from a one goal deficit against one of the teams, according to Josep Guardiola, that are “one of the worst to fight back against.” In the end, Barça managed to win the match 1-2, to which Guardiola said “it keeps us in it,” in reference to the battle with Real Madrid for the top spot of La Liga.

The manager highlighted the qualities of Barça’s rival: “they are one of the worst team to have to fight back against. They are very well organized on defence, they have players with a lot of experience. Furthermore, they’re fantastic on the counter. After the first goal, they went back [in their own half] to defend the result. It’s clear that Levante have made it to where they are now because they’ve done a good job.”

On how the game played out, the manager said that “in the second half we opened up the field. Our objective was to score the 0-1, but after conceding a goal, we had to change some things up to win the match. Cuenca gave us amplitude. Playing a goal down against these types of teams is very complicated, and if you lose the ball they kill you. We tried to attack with everything we had and in the end we managed to get a result that keeps us in it.”

Even though a lot of the attention is now on next weekend’s Clásico at the Camp Nou, Guardiola said that he’s more eager to face Chelsea: “I don’t have the strength to think about it [the match against Madrid]. We have to focus on Chelsea, it’s a Champions League semifinal.”

He did say that the match against Madrid will be marked by the power “of a team that have only lost two matches” in the Liga and he anticipates a “terribly difficult” match. He added, “if they win, it’s over. We’ll see how we come into the match. We’ll have to play a very good game to beat them.” On Barça’s chances of retaining the Liga title, Guardiola said that “it’s a little less impossible.” (via FCBarcelona.cat)

[Liga BBVA; Week34] Levante UD 1 - 2 FC Barcelona

Two goals from Leo Messi in reply to an early opener from Barkero gave Barça the win against Levante to keep them just four points behind the leaders Madrid.

The title race is still on as Barça chalked up yet another win to stay in touch with Real Madrid, who had earlier beaten Sporting 3-1, but it was hard work for Guardiola’s men, who had to come back from one down after Barkero had scored a first half penalty to give the hosts the lead. Barça were unable to pull level until the hour mark, when Messi took over, firing n a left footed drive from the edge of the box and then hammering home a brilliant penalty after Cuenca had been bundled over in the box.

Attention now switches to Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, with the big one against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou next weekend on the horizon.

Barça began the game seven points adrift at the top, but they showed no nerves as they set about overcoming fifth placed Levante. With Alexis and Pedro both playing wide, there might not have been a natural target man up front, but Guardiola’s team were soon carving out chances, as both Pedro and Messi tested Munúa and Thiago had a couple of good headed chances. The visitors were in charge, but Levante’s massed defence was always going to limit the clear chances on offer.

Levante were always going to be a danger on the break though and when once such speedy break resulted in a corner, the ref blew for a penalty after Busquets handled in the box and Barkero strode up to fire past Valdes and give his team the lead. In truth, Barça then found it hard to settle into their rhythm and looked a little slow as they tried to find their way through Levante’s defence for the equaliser and found it hard to create too many chances before the break.

At the start of the second half, Guardiola brought on Cuenca for Xavi and soon after replaced Pedro with Iniesta as he looked to dominate in the middle and open up the flanks, particularly through Cuenca, who started the move that ended in Messi’s equaliser on the hour mark. The Argentinean played a quick one-two on the edge of the box and curled in a great shot to set up an exciting last half hour.

Cuenca was also key to the winning goal when he was bundled over by Bothelo as he ran on to a clever return pass from Cesc. Despite the home players’ protestations, the ref pointed to the spot and Messi hammered the penalty home high to the keeper’s left for the winner. There was no way that Barça were going to let such a hard won lead slip and they controlled the game as the clock ran down to take the three point. (via FCBarcelona.com)

[Match Stats]
Levante Munúa, Pedro López, Ballesteros, Cabral, Juanfran, Iborra (Rubén, m.87), Xavi Torres, Valdo, Barkero (Juanlu, m.87) , Botelho (Ghezzal, m.80) and Koné.

FC Barcelona Víctor Valdés, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi (Cuenca, m.46), Thiago, Fábregas, Alexis (Alves, m.76), Messi and Pedro (Iniesta, m.53).

Goals: 1-0, m.22: Barkero, de penalti. 1-1, m.64: Messi. 1-2, m.72: Messi(penalty).

Referee: José Antonio Teixeira Vitienes (Cantabrian committee). Admonished by the Levante Botelho, Juanfran, Valdo Iborra and Cabral and the Barcelona Busquets and Adriano.

Sub: Match at the Ciutat de Valencia Stadium before 23,000 spectators. Pitch in acceptable condition. They observed a minute's silence for Piermario Morosini, who plays for Livorno, who died on Saturday while a game contesting the Italian Serie B before the Pascara.