Five talking points from Levante 2-3 Barcelona

Barcelona’s winning streak continued at Levante even though Xavi’s side gave away three penalties and ran into a home side ready to throw everything at the Catalans.

Three penalties in a game is pretty unheard of, but did happen at Levante, just over a week after Real Madrid were awarded a hat-trick against Celta Vigo in La Liga. Conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this one.

Barca can’t really complain about either kick, but managed brilliantly to take all three points on a pitch they’ve struggled with in the past. Again, Xavi’s men had to come from behind, dig in and show some real fighting spirit, and again they found trump cards.

Of course, it wasn’t Barca’s best performance but after such a rollercoaster game, those three points will be even more special. Barca are now 15 games unbeaten and, according to Mister Chip, the first side to win a game in La Liga after conceding three kicks.

Xavi opted to give Pedri and Gavi rest for this one and started the two teenagers on the Levante bench. It was an understandable move given Barca’s current workload, but the coach ended up calling the duo early in the second half with his side trailing.

Nico Gonzalez had gotten his first Barcelona start since January but didn’t really take advantage of the chance. Barca’s play in the first half was too slow and heavy, lacking the intensity to match even a fierce Levante.

Pedri and Gavi needed just a few minutes to put Barca ahead for the first time in the match with a very special goal. Gavi’s run and pass was so great to watch and allowed Pedri to equalize with a right kick.

Barca still had work to do to go on and win the game, but there’s no doubt the introduction of the two youngsters was crucial. Xavi insisted after the match that Barca weren’t dependent on Pedri but the stats suggest otherwise.

Choose highlighted before kick-off how Barca have won 80% of their La Liga games this season when Pedri has been in the starting XI. When the midfielder is not in the team, this rate drops to just 42.1%. Narrative.

Levante v FC Barcelona - Santander League

Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

One of the game’s key moments was when Levante were awarded a second penalty, just five minutes after Levante took the lead with a kick from Jose Luis Morales.

Eric Garcia, who otherwise had a hugely impressive game once again, was the culprit this time around and it looked like it was about to be goodnight in Barcelona with Levante ready to go 2-0 up.

Still, Marc-Andre ter Stegen had other ideas and saved Roger Marti’s effort which seemed to breathe new life into Barca. Three minutes later Barca equalized and suddenly the whole game changed again.

Barca’s goalkeeper has come under a lot of criticism this season, and rightly so at times, but he’s certainly on the rise at the moment and was definitely key to Sunday’s victory.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele were also key to victory as the duo combined again to bring Barca level. The striker was virtually anonymous at Levante until he headed a delicious home ball from Dembele.

It’s now 10 games in 14 games for the Gabon international since joining Barcelona on a free transfer in January. Aubameyang has already equaled Memphis Depay as the team’s top scorer in 2021-22 in 15 fewer games.

Aubameyang again told Dembele to stay after the game and you can’t help but wonder if the striker’s presence at the club could help the Frenchman continue.

Dembele is fit and already top of the La Liga assists chart alongside Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema on 11. We still have no idea what Dembele thinks of his future but his Happy Holidays when Luuk de Jong scored the winner, he certainly didn’t look like a man who doesn’t care about the club.

De Jong hit the clutch again to secure three points for Barcelona on his return to the squad after testing positive for Covid-19. The Dutchman remains a very useful option on the bench and has proven why once again at Levante.

Barca appeared to be heading for a draw after Gonzalo Melero’s penalty made it 2-2, which led to Xavi dispatching De Jong to find a winner. And that’s exactly what he did with a header in the final seconds.

De Jong now has six league goals for Barcelona, ​​only Memphis and Auba have scored more, and it’s also worth pointing out how important his goals have been for the Catalans.

Xavi described De Jong as a ‘great option’ and ‘an example for everyone’ after the game, but it was probably the goalscorer himself who expressed it best.

“Scoring goals is always an incredible feeling” he said. “But scoring in the final minutes to earn the three points is something really special. I’ve done it many times in my career and that feeling is never normal. It’s unbelievable.”