NEW LEVANTE 5-4 BARCELONA: Barcelona were stunned by Spanish minnows Levante as dreams of an unbeaten season for the champions went up in smoke. Levante took a shock lead through Emmanuel Boateng and there were gasps of disbelief when the striker added his second, taking it past Marc-Andre ter Stegen before slamming home. Philippe Coutinho then brought the Catalan side back into contention as his deflected effort from range flew into the net. But thoughts of a comeback were snuffed out as Enis Bardhi curled in from 22 yards out before Boateng then completed a phenomenal hat-trick.
Levante took the lead on nine minutes. A poor clearance from Mina gifted Levante possession on the edge of the Barcelona area. Jose Luis Morales got on his bike motoring to the byline past the hapless Mina and when he pulled the ball back Boateng hooked in from close range.
It was so nearly 2-0 moments later when Enis Bardhi hit the frame of the goal with Barcelona’s defence once again all over the place. Mina was partnering Vermaelen in the centre of the defence with Gerard Pique on the bench.
Levante went 15 games without a win midseason but when Paco Lopez took over he took the team on a run of seven wins in nine games dragging them away from the bottom of the table.
Vermaelen was booked for chopping down Boateng on the touchline. The Ghanian was a constant threat and the Belgian was suffering alongside Mina in a shaky Barcelona defence. Things got worse for him on 28 minutes when his right hamstring gave way and he had to hobble off.
It was bad news for Barcelona and for England’s World Cup rivals Belgium with the tournament just a month away.
Gerard Pique was not ready to come on and instead of Vermaelen going to ground and Barcelona putting the ball out to give him time to warm-up, they inexplicable rushed the Belgian off the pitch and continued momentarily with 10.
There were scenes of jubilation as the Levante players joined together to celebrate going ahead in the game
Boateng rounded the goalkeeper before emphatically smashing home his sides second goal of the game
The Ghanaian striker was in dreamland as the visiting Barcelona fans inside the stadium fell silent early on
In that time Levante scored a second. This time it was Ivan Rakitic who cleared poorly and the home side cut through the heart of Barcelona’s defence once more. Mina was once more a spectator. Boateng skillfully rounded Marc Andre ter Stegen.
Nelson Semedo tried to react but Boateng was too strong. He muscled his way clear and smashed the ball into the empty net.
Pique was on now and he had decided that Barcelona were not just going to roll over. He led the charge forward and laid the ball off to Luis Suarez on the edge of the area. He played it to Philippe Coutinho and the former Liverpool midfielder scored his fifth league goal, his seventh in all competitions for Barcelona.
But it was not the start of a comeback. Barça conceded three times in the first ten minutes of the second half. Bardhi scored from Jose Campana’s assist inside the first minute and it was 4-1 when Pique was beaten in the air and Boateng sprinted onto the flick-on leaving Mina in his slipstream and scoring past Ter Stegen.
Philippe Coutinho pulled one back for the Catalan side as his deflected long-range shot flew into the net
Andres Iniesta congratulated his team-mate as the pair hurried back to halfway to restart the match
Bardhi scored his second and Levante’s fifth and Barcelona were now looking ridiculous – from being two games to not losing all season, to losing 5-1 against a team that had spent most of the season fighting relegation.
Coutinho was not finished though and he scored two quick goals to complete his hat-trick. First Dembele’s shot was blocked and bounced to him in the area and he scored from close range. And then he shot from the edge of the area through a crowded area and past Oier Olazabal in the Levante goal.
With 20 minutes left Boateng brought down Busquets from a corner and Suarez slammed his penalty straight down the middle past Oier. From 5-1 down Barcelona were now a goal away from saving their unbeaten record.
Coutinho set off on another mazy run but this time shot over. They could not find the equalizer. The Brazilian has had a good half season for his new club. But its a season will not end with Barcelona crowned invincibles.
Enis Bardhi scored a brace as Levante stormed into an incredible 5-1 lead against the champions of Spain
Coutinho scored a hat-trick but the celebrations were muted as his side continued to trail against the team from Valencia
Luis Suarez scored a penalty in the 71st minute as Barcelona brought the score to 5-4 a