La Liga: Barcelona 7 Levante 0
By Football News
Barcelona began their La Liga title defence in emphatic fashion as they comfortably dispatched of Levante 7-0 at Camp Nou.
In what was coach Gerardo Martino's first competitive match in charge, the Catalans held a 6-0 lead at half-time thanks to goals from Alexis Sanchez, Dani Alves, Pedro and Xavi, plus another two from Lionel Messi.
The second half was just as one-sided with Barcelona dominating from start to finish, but they were less ruthless as they added only one more goal that came from Pedro after a mishap in the visitors' defence.
Martino's first competitive Barcelona team selection included no new signings as Neymar started on the bench, but Adriano was preferred to Jordi Alba at left-back and Sanchez featured on the right flank.
Levante, meanwhile, were able to include three new faces from the start as Jordi Xumetra, David Barral and Sergio Pinto all came into the starting 11 for Joaquin Caparros' new side.
It took the hosts just three minutes to carve open their visitors' backline. Pedro slipped a clever reverse pass into the area for Cesc Fabregas who in turn squared to Sanchez for the easiest of finishes from close range.
Barcelona were in complete control and extended their lead in the 12th minute. Fabregas diverted a long ball into Messi's path with his chest, allowing the Argentine to play Pedro into the area before tapping in the wideman's low cross from the left.
Levante could hardly register a touch and found themselves 3-0 down before the 30-minute mark. After robbing possession from David Navarro, Messi slid a pass into the area for Fabregas and despite Keylor Navas' best attempts to cut out his squared pass, Alves was on hand to stroke into an empty goal.
The home side were not doing Levante any favours and Pedro added his name to the scoresheet a few moments later as he latched on to Adriano's scooped pass before caressing a shot into the bottom-far corner after coming in from the left.
Barcelona added two more just before the break as Messi buried a penalty after Pedro Lopez's clumsy tackle on Adriano and then Xavi poked the ball through Navas' legs after the Argentina star's lobbed pass.
Martino's men started the second half in a more relaxed fashion, but that did not stop them from creating chances as Messi almost beat Navas to a chipped pass and Gerard Pique had two attempts within close proximity of the goal area.
With just over an hour on the clock, the moment that Barcelona fans had been waiting for arrived as close-season acquisition Neymar came off the bench to replace Sanchez, and the Brazilian was celebrating with his team-mates 10 minutes later as Pedro dispatched a loose ball after Navas challenged Fabregas near the penalty spot.
The final period of the match resembled something similar to a training exercise for Barcelona. Neymar went close following a smart off-the-ball run into the area, but the champions slowed the pace of the game and coasted over the line to collect the three points in a comfortable manner.