11th heaven: Unstoppable Barca do it once again | sports | Hindustan Times
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11th heaven: Unstoppable Barca do it once again

sports Updated: Jan 03, 2011 23:56 IST

AP
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Pedro Rodriguez scored twice in the second half to give Barcelona a 2-1 win over Levante on Sunday, its 11th consecutive victory in the Spanish league.

Both goals were set up by Dani Alves, who provided the second-half spark that energized a Barcelona attack missing Lionel Messi, who was watching from the stands.

Levante succeeded in stifling the home side throughout the first half but at the start of the second, Alves slipped the ball to Pedro, who calmly slotted a shot through a wall of Levante defenders to put Barcelona ahead in the 47th.

Twelve minutes later, the Brazil right back centered low for Pedro to volley into the Levante goal.

Christian Stuani, who had just come on to the pitch, halved the visitors' deficit with a sharp strike with ten minutes to play. Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez played in his 549th game for Barcelona, tying Miguel Bernando for the club record. "They defended deeply and it was difficult to find space," Xavi said.

Also, a 10-man Valencia beat Espanyol 2-1 from a late goal by Juanma Mata, Deportivo La Coruna beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1, Sevilla defeated Osasuna 1-0 and Malaga rallied to down Sporting Gijon 2-1. Messi, who returned from his winter holidays on Sunday, was replaced in the team by striker Bojan Krkic. And with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique unavailable because of injury and suspension, respectively, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola experimented with midfielder Sergio Busquets alongside Eric Abidal in the center of his defense.

Early on, Levante showed few of the frailties that last week saw it lose 8-0 to Real Madrid, and made it difficult for Barcelona to deploy its crisp passing attack.

In one of the Catalan club's few clear scoring chances in the first half, Bojan dribbled to the edge of the six-yard box, but Levante goalie Manolo Reina quickly cut off his angle and smothered his shot.

Two minutes later, Andres Iniesta crossed to Bojan, whose blocked shot fell to Alves, who then shot high.

Barcelona came out in the second half looking for a breakthrough, and it soon came through Pedro's seventh and eighth league goals, all of which have come in the last eight games.

The Spain forward almost had a hat trick in the 67th when substitute Thiago Alcantara put him through on goal, but his shot hit the crossbar.

Despite the miss, Barcelona held on for the victory. Barcelona's 11-game league winning streak, in which it has outscored its opponents 44-5, is four shy of Spanish record, set by Real Madrid in 1960-61. The Catalan side also extended unbeaten streak in all competitions to 24 matches.