Loukas Vyntra gave Levante an early lead with a powerful header before Gerard Pique equalised for Barcelona with another header nine minutes later. Both teams had chances in the second half, but neither found the winner.
The draw sent Barcelona one point clear atop the table on 51 points, one ahead of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. Atletico Madrid were set to play at home to Sevilla later Sunday. Real Madrid won at Real Betis on Saturday.
Levante 1-1 Barcelona FT: Shots(OT) 7(4) - 17(6), Possession 26% - 74%, Tackles 17 - 14 http://t.co/acCCB9jGVM— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 19, 2014
Martino: "The result is not really worring. At the start we sometimes won without playing that good, now we played good but didn't win."— barcastuff (@barcastuff) January 19, 2014
Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino made nine changes to his starting XI from the win at Getafe on Thursday in the Copa del Rey, with only Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas retaining their spots.
Victor Valdes returned to goal behind a back line of Martin Montoya, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba. Xavi and Sergio Busquets joined Cesc in midfield, while Alexis Sanchez and Pedro started alongside Messi in the attack.
Barcelona defeated Levante 7-0 at the Nou Camp on the season's opening day, but it was clear quickly that Sunday's rematch would play out differently.
Levante went ahead in the 10th minute on a fine header by right-back Loukas Vyntra. Andreas Ivanschitz curled a corner from the left, and Vyntra leapt highest to power his header past Valdes and into the net.
Barcelona were level nine minutes later, via another header by a defender from a corner. Xavi delivered the corner from the right, and Pique placed his low header perfectly in the bottom corner at the far post to equalise.
Xavi shot wide in the 36th minute, and Messi curled a free kick off target five minutes later as Barcelona searched for the go-ahead goal. The teams went into the break level at 1-1.
Barcelona kept up the pressure after the break. Cesc forced a save from Keylor Navas with a well-struck shot from distance in the 55th minute. Four minutes later, the hosts had to scramble to stay level.
First, Navas saved Messi's shot from a tight angle on the left. Then, Xavi's rebound was blocked on the line. Finally, Navas stopped Messi's follow-up header from the left, although Messi had already been ruled offside.
Levante had a good chance of their own in the 67th minute, when Pedro Lopez's volley was deflected wide of the near post. Two minutes later, Ruben Garcia picked out Ivanschitz, who forced Valdes into a save with a header.
Valdes saved again from Ivanschitz in the 77th minute, with the Austrian connecting sweetly on his long-distance shot. Barcelona had the next chance, but Navas pushed away Cristian Tello's curling shot in the 86th minute.
The winner never came for Barcelona, though, and now Martino's side must wait to see if Atletico Madrid take over top spot.
It's games like this where Barcelona really miss Andres Iniesta and his dribbling & playmaking.— Xoel Càrdenas (@XoelCardenas) January 19, 2014
Reaction to follow…
|Jean Marie Dongou||N/A||6|
Levante host Barcelona again in three days in the Copa Del Rey quarterfinals.
In league action, Barcelona host Malaga next Sunday, while Levante play at Sevilla on Saturday.