Levante vs. Barcelona: Winners and Losers from La Liga
Barcelona restored their three-point lead at the top of the Primera Division thanks to a 2-0 away win at Levante on Sunday—but they didn't have it all their own way at Estadi Ciutat de Valencia.
The battle between the teams at the bottom and top of the table turned out to be a lot closer than many would have expected prior to kick-off.
The visitors were dominant early on, taking the lead when Jordi Alba's cross from the left was deflected into his own goal by Levante defender David Navarro after 22 minutes.
However, the Blaugrana were forced to weather a storm to retain their lead through to half-time.
Levante—who had not recorded a victory over their opponents since Jan. 2004—were unlucky to see a Jose Luis Morales effort hit the post and stay out before the break.
Luis Enrique's visitors continued to be sluggish in the second half, but a goal in stoppage time from Luis Suarez made sure the manager would celebrate his 100th game in charge with a victory.
The result also saw Barcelona extend their unbeaten run to 28 matches, tying the club record, according to ESPN Stats & Info on Twitter.
Here Bleacher Report picks out the winners and losers from the fixture.
Winner: Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez continued his hot streak in front of goal, scoring his 10th goal in his last six outings in all competitions. He has now scored 20 times in La Liga this season.
However, he left it very late to get his name on the scoresheet against rock-bottom Levante.
The Uruguayan forward—who scored four goals in Barcelona's 7-0 thrashing of Valencia in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday—finished off a counter-attacking move in added-on time to seal the points.
Having volleyed a glorious chance wide in the first half, Suarez accepted Lionel Messi's pass before striking a shot with the outside of his right foot beyond goalkeeper Diego Marino.
Loser: David Navarro
Recalled to Levante's starting XI following the 3-1 defeat away to Sevilla, defender David Navarro had the misfortune of putting Barcelona in front.
Despite being in a good position in the middle of the area, the veteran centre-back was only able to deflect Jordi Alba's cross into his own net.
Navarro also picked up a booking in the second half, the 35-year-old guilty of blatantly dragging back Lionel Messi after the forward had turned away from him, before being replaced in the 69th minute.
Winner: Sergi Roberto
On his 24th birthday, and with Sergio Busquets named among the substitutes, Sergi Roberto was gifted the chance to start for Barcelona.
He seized the opportunity, first at the base of the visitors' midfield before being moved further forward once Busquets was sent on as a second-half substitute.
Roberto completed 95 per cent of his pass attempts, per WhoScored.com.
Journalist Dermot Corrigan suggested the understudy did a good job: "Sergi Roberto doing decent Busquets impression by getting back to rob ball when Levante seemed to be breaking [three] on [three]."
With the Champions League knockout stages looming, and a second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final against Valencia to come, Roberto proved both his reliability and versatility.
Loser: Dani Alves
Dani Alves' performance rather summed up Barcelona's day.
Defensively, he was well off the pace. Then, when it came to attacking, he was unusually lethargic and lacking in composure in the final third.
Lee Roden wrote for ESPN FC: "Dani Alves had an awful game at right-back, beaten in sprints, losing individual battles and even repeatedly giving away possession before he was withdrawn by Luis Enrique."
Jose Luis Moreno gave the Brazilian a particularly tough time, with the Levante midfielder only denied a first-half goal by the woodwork after making a run in behind Alves.
After 77 minutes, and with Alves on a booking, Barcelona manager Enrique sent on Aleix Vidal to take over on the right side of the back four.
Winner: Luis Enrique
Luis Enrique has an astonishing record since taking charge of Barcelona in May 2014.
His side put in a below-par performance in the early kick-off, yet they still found a way to make sure their boss celebrated an 80th win in his 100th game in charge.
Per Squawka on Twitter, Enrique's record is even better than that of Pep Guardiola, who managed 71 victories in his first 100 games as Barcelona manager.
However, the current boss of Blaugrana is only focused on winning trophies, telling Barcelona's official website: "I am interested in collective objectives, it’s nice to reach 100 games but there is still a long way to go. We are well placed in all competitions."
Levante manager Joan Francesc Ferrer—or Rubi, as he is better known—could not have asked for much more from his team.
The former Barcelona assistant, who worked at the Camp Nou during the tenure of the late Tito Vilanova in 2012-13, set his players up to make sure they could trouble his old employers.
Bleacher Report's Tim Collins praised Rubi's approach on Twitter: "Levante have taken lessons from sides who've troubled Barca this season. Depor and Malaga both played with two up top, gave Barca problems."
The plan might have reaped some sort of reward had Levante managed to convert any of their 11 shots, recorded by Squawka.
They remain stuck at the foot of the table, though Rubi was able to take positives out of the defeat. He said after the game, per AS English: "I can come away from the match safe in the knowledge that the team had five chances; unfortunately, we weren't able to finish any of them off."
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!