La Liga: Lionel Messi scores brace as Barcelona defeat Levante 4-1
Madrid: Lionel Messi was the star again as he set up the first goal, scored two himself and also found time to miss a penalty in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Levante.
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal on a penalty kick during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs Levante UD at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. Pic/AFP
It helped Barca to remain on top of Spain's BBVA Primera Liga table.
They struggled to create chances in the first 45 minutes of the game, but found life a lot easier after Marc Bartra had put them in front just four minutes after half-time.
Luis Enrique produced a couple of surprises in his starting 11, aligning Sandro Ramirez and Munir, while giving a rest to Andres Iniesta, Xinhua reported.
That did not stop the Catalans from clearly dominating the opening minutes of the game.
On the whole, though, Barca found it tough to break down a packed Levante defence as the visitors looked to crowd their penalty area and play on the break
It was not until four minutes into the second half that Barca took the lead through an unexpected source when Bartra controlled a pass from Messi on his chest before firing the ball home in the 49th minute.
Shortly after it was 2-0 as Neymar scrambled the ball home following good work from Dani Alves on the right.
Messi made it 3-1 from the penalty spot before the hour after Neymar had been fouled and it looked to be a question of how many Barca would score, but an error from Ter Stegen gifted Victor Casadesus a goal in the 65th minute.
There was still time for Messi to miss another penalty for Barca with 15 minutes remaining, but he recovered to net his second of the night in the last minute of normal time to give Barca what was eventually a routine win and maintain their 100 percent record.