Barcelona, Dec 13 (efe-epa).- A late goal by Lionel Messi pulled Barcelona’s fat out of the fire, giving the Catalan team an eked-out 1-0 win over struggling Levante on Sunday at Camp Nou, although the visitors battled right up to the very end in the 13th week of the La Liga season – once again before empty stands due to coronavirus gathering restrictions.
Barca thus put an end to its two-loss “streak” in a match where Ronald Koeman’s boys dithered around during the first half, firing a number of shots but connecting with none, although they did a bit better after the break.
But it was the Argentine striker who saved the day in the 76th minute – garnering the team three ranking points and moving it onto the eighth spot on the La Liga table, nine points behind league leaders Atletico de Madrid and Real Sociedad – when he found the twine for the only tally of the match on an angled shot after Frenkie de Jong’s assist.
Levante, on the other hand, had a clear notion of what they wanted to accomplish on the pitch under the leadership of Paco Lopez in the relatively few minutes during which they had ball control.
Levante’s clearest chance came in the 15th minute with Dani Gomez on the attack from midfield, connecting with Melero, who sent it deep to Jorge de Frutos, but the latter was unable to get the ball by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who saved the shot with his knee.
And Levante goaltender Aitor Fernandez made four great saves in the first half when Barcelona threatened, firing 13 shots on goal to Levante’s 4.
Nevertheless, as luck would have it, Messi was at the right place at the right time for the winning tally, shoving a loss down the throat of Levante when they had thought they might come away with a scoreless draw, or perhaps a late win of their own, and at least one much-needed point in the rankings.
Son had another chance for Levante, quite late in the match, but Ter Stegen stopped the shot.
The result put Levante in 18th place, two points below the relegation level.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest, Araújo, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets (Pedri, min.58), De Jong; Messi, Griezmann (Umtiti, min.89), Coutinho (Trincao, min.70); and Braithwaite.
Levante: Aitor Fernandez; Coke (Miramon, min.67), Postigo, Vezo, Clerc; Melero (Sergio Leon, min.82), Malsa, Vukcevic (Radoja, min.67), De Frutos (Son, min.82); Dani Gomez and Roger Marti (Morales, min.67).
Referee: Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea showed yellow cards to Levante’s Vukcevic (min.41), and to Barcelona’s De Jong (min.49) and Braithwaite (min.87).