Barcelona slip to shock defeat after Levante goal flurry
Valencia (Spain) (AFP) –
Lionel Messi scored again but was helpless to prevent Barcelona conceding three goals in seven minutes on Saturday as Levante stormed to a surprise 3-1 victory in La Liga.
Messi converted a first-half penalty at the City of Valencia Stadium for his sixth goal in five games only for Levante to stun the defending champions with an incredible treble shortly after the hour.
Jose Campana and Borja Mayoral scored in the 61st and 63rd minutes before Nemanja Radoja added a third in the 68th to finish Barca off and give Real Madrid the chance to move top of the table later on Saturday. Levante climb to eighth.
After seven consecutive wins in all competitions, Barcelona arrived in Valencia as overwhelming favourites to cement their place at the summit, particularly given the irresistable form of Messi.
His goal here was the 500th of his career with his left foot and it looked likely to give Ernesto Valverde's team another three points until bedlam ensued in the second half.
To make matters worse for Barca, Luis Suarez was forced off in the 41st minute with an injury to his right calf and would now appear to be a doubt for Tuesday's Champions League game at home to Slavia Prague.
Levante started well and Barcelona were fortunate to escape a ragged few minutes that included Suarez being booked for a foul committed by Arthur Melo. Referee Hernandez Hernandez corrected his error after being made aware by VAR.
The chaos continued as Campana looked certain to score only for Clement Lenglet to make an excellent block before Gerard Pique and Arturo Vidal comically conceded a corner after leaving a bouncing ball for each other.
Barcelona settled, long periods of possession finding a successful outlet down the left where Nelson Semedo twice slipped Antoine Griezmann in behind right-back Jorge Miramon, who then conceded the penalty.
This time it was Semedo who broke clear and Miramon clipped the defender's heal, allowing Messi to sweep the spot-kick high into the corner, even if replays suggested Griezmann had been offside in the build-up.
- Seven-minute blitz floors Barca -
Suarez's unfortunate half continued as he was replaced by Carles Perez and Messi might have made it two before half-time only for Miramon to win back some credit by clearing the Argentinian's finish off the line.
Levante began the second half on the front foot but nobody could have predicted what was to follow as three Levante goals turned the game on its head.
First, Pique's underhit clearance came straight back, as Mayoral and Jose Morales shifted the ball quickly inside to Campana who struck hard into the corner.
Then a loose Perez header allowed Mayoral space and he did brilliantly to curl past the outstretched right hand of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
With the home fans still celebrating, Radoja made it three. Barcelona again failed to clear and Radoja's effort might have been saved had Sergio Busquets, on as a substitute, not shot out his right leg and caused a cruel deflection.
Messi thought he had launched a comeback when he bundled through and scored but the goal was ruled out after Griezmann was spotted to have been offside.
That seemed to kill Barca's belief and, if anything, Levante should have made it four late on. Gonzalo Melero had only Ter Stegen to beat but shot wide.
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