Defending champions, Barcelona, fell to a shock 2-1 defeat at Levante in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie in the Copa del Rey on Thursday night.
Erick Cabaco and Borja Mayoral’s quickfire double inside the opening 18 minutes knocked Barcelona off their porch, sending the home fans into a frenzy. Philippe Coutinho dispatched a well-taken penalty in the 85th minute to cut the deficit for Barcelona, salvaging one crucial away goal from an otherwise disappointing night.
The hosts started threatening their lofty rivals right from the very beginning and got themselves a goal just after four minutes of play. Ruben Rochina’s well-taken free-kick found Erick Cabaco inside the area, who outleapt every Barcelona defender to put the ball past a helpless Jasper Cillessen.
Holders Barcelona fell to a shock 2-1 defeat to Levante in the first leg of their Copa Del Rey last-16 tie.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 10, 2019
Despite securing a 1-0 goal lead over the defending champions, the Granotas didn’t rest on their laurels and kept piling bodies forward. And after 14 minutes of relentless pressure, their dominance reflected handsomely on the scoreboard. Emmanuel Boateng’s clever pass set on-loan Real Madrid striker Borja Mayoral through on goal, who made his parent club proud by slotting the ball into the far corner.
Also Read: Mid Season Review – Barcelona vs Real Madrid
Barcelona, too, had their moments, but they came too far and few between. Malcom and Ousmane Dembele had their efforts saved by Levante stopper, Aitor Fernandez, but there weren’t many clear cut chances in the first half.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, the hosts had the chance to put the game to bed when Jose Luis Morales found himself one-on-one with Cillessen. The Spaniard, frustratingly, lost his composure and lifted his effort over the goal.
After evading a scare, Barcelona won themselves a lifeline when Denis Suarez was scythed down inside the area. The referee pointed to the spot and Coutinho made no mistake converting from 12 yards out.
Levante’s Spirited Display
The visitors started the game on the front foot and unsettled the Barcelona backline right from the very beginning. Erick Cabaco’s opener made them even hungrier, as they hounded Barcelona for every inch of the playing area.
Barcelona hammered Levante 5-0 at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia in La Liga on December 16 and were the undisputed favorites to bag all three points, last night. The hosts, however, put the scarring defeat behind them and produced a truly remarkable performance.
Another Disappointing Barcelona Display
The Blaugrana have a solid five-point advantage at the top of La Liga, but they, in no way, look as intimidating as they are supposed to. Ernesto Valverde’s side were once again unconvincing at the back and offered little to no resistance to the onrushing Levante forwards.
Levante’s opening goal was almost a gift from a disoriented back line, who virtually deserted their goalkeeper, Jasper Cillessen. The Catalans didn’t learn from their initial mishap and kept allowing Levante to stroll inside the penalty box. Thankfully, their keeper was in an inspiring form on the night and stopped his team from falling further behind.
No Messi, No Party
Lionel Messi starred with a hat-trick in Barcelona’s emphatic 5-0 win at Levante, back in December. Sadly, he wasn’t on the pitch last night to inspire his side to yet another famous victory.
⚽ | Levante 1-0 Barcelona [4']
⚽ | Levante 2-0 Barcelona [18']
— Goal (@goal) January 10, 2019
Keeping the upcoming La Liga fixtures in mind, Valverde fielded a much-changed Barcelona on Thursday. Most members of the starting XI don’t always get the opportunity to play together, but in no way should they look that much disinterested in a knockout cup fixture. There’s no denying the fact that Messi is Barcelona’s most important player, but this much dependence on a player could really prove to be catastrophic for the defending champions.