La Liga: Messi brace, Neymar help Barcelona rout Levante 4-1

  • Reuters, Barcelona
  • Updated: Sep 21, 2015 08:41 IST
FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring off a penalty kick against Levante during their La Liga soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on September 20, 2015. (Reuters Photo)

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi scored one penalty and missed another as his brace helped Barcelona dominate Levante in the second half in a 4-1 victory on Sunday to maintain their perfect start to the La Liga.

Last season's treble winners lead the standings with 12 points ahead of three teams, including arch rivals Real Madrid, on 10, having won all of their four games so far.

Defender Marc Bartra showed composure to open the scoring by converting a Messi cross after 50 minutes with Barcelona having been frustrated in the first half by a well-organised Levante side. With the game having opened up, Neymar finished clinically after 55 minutes and won a penalty on the hour which was converted by Messi.

At the other end, Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen flapped at a cross that allowed Victor to slot the ball home after 65 minutes. Messi blazed a second penalty over the bar after he himself was fouled but the Argentine did score again with a drive from the edge of the area a minute from time.

"I love to defend, it is what I like best and work for the team by winning back possession," Bartra told reporters. "If I can also get forward and score goals then so much the better.

"When teams are so defensive it is difficult but then when you get the goal it is all a lot easier. I was lucky to get the opener but it is most important to win and be leaders."

Youth players Sandro Ramirez and Munir El Haddadi were both given their chance in the Barcelona attack with coach Luis Enrique resting Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta, while in a tactical change Messi began in a deeper role behind the front three.

Munir had Barcelona's best chance in the first half but despite having team mates well placed, he chose to go for goal and his shot was smothered by keeper Ruben Martinez.

Bartra showed the forwards the way, though, when he chested down a cross and slotted the ball in expertly after the restart. Neymar slotted the ball past a crowd of players to add to the lead and was then brought down by Angel Trujillo, with Messi scoring the penalty.

After Victor bagged a consolation for Levante, Messi was left frustrated with his penalty miss, having been fouled by Zouhair Feddal but he made up for it with a trademark goal. He picked up possession on the right channel and ran with the ball to within 20 yards before unleashing a shot into the bottom corner.

Earlier, Nolito hit the opening goal for Celta Vigo who took advantage of a lethargic first half from Sevilla to win 2-1. Sevilla went behind when the defence gave Nolito time in the box to pick his spot after 15 minutes and Daniel Wass extended Celta's lead after 26 minutes with a low drive into the corner.

Sevilla came to life in the second half and substitute Fernando Llorente got his first goal for the club but they could not find an equaliser.

A Bruno Soriano penalty followed by goals from Mario Gaspar and Leo Baptistao gave Villarreal a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao who got a late consolation through Aritz Aduriz. An Antonio Sanabria double helped Sporting Gijon to a 3-2 win at Deportivo La Coruna and Javi Guerra gave Rayo Vallecano a 1-0 victory over Las Palmas.

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