Cristian Tello was the hat-trick hero as Barcelona came from behind to build a 4-1 first leg lead over Levante in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.
After seeing rivals Real Madrid labour to a 1-0 first leg advantage over Espanyol 24 hours earlier, Barcelona looked in moderate trouble after Nabil El Zhar gave Levante a first-half advantage—but a rotated Barcelona side roared back in the second half to eventually build a healthy scoreline.
Juanfran’s comical own goal restored parity after 53 minutes before Tello produced three clinical finishes to give Levante little hope heading into next week’s second leg at Camp Nou.
Messi has assisted 3 times in a single official match for the first time in his professional career— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) January 22, 2014
Having drawn 1-1 in the league at the weekend, the two sides seemed rather familiar with one another, and it was Levante who again scored the game’s first goal.
Pedro narrowly missed a good opening after five minutes, as his shot hit the inside of the post, before El Zhar broke the deadlock—prodding home from close range after Jose Pinto had just about saved his initial shot.
Barcelona huffed and puffed but could not find an immediate equaliser and, when it did come, they could hardly claim much credit for it.
Indeed, it was a concession entirely of Levante’s own making, as Loukas Vyntra was first to Javi Jimenez’s save but then contrived to smash his attempted clearance against the unwitting Juanfran, with both players only able to look on as the ball ricocheted into the unguarded net.
From that point Barcelona seemed emboldened, and the goals eventually flowed.
Lionel Messi found Tello with a good through ball for the youngster to give the visitors the lead on the hour mark, and the duo repeated the recipe twice in the final ten minutes to complete what eventually became something of a rout.
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The second leg of this tie takes place next Wednesday, with La Liga action taking place in between. Barcelona host Malaga at Camp Nou on Sunday, while Levante will have an extra day's rest after travelling to face Valencia the day prior.