Barcelona will have to come from behind to prevail in their Copa del Rey tie against Levante, plundering to a shock 2-1 loss in the first leg on Thursday
With the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba rested, Levante seemed to have a spring in their step, safe with the knowledge that Barcelona were not at full strength. And, the hosts went on to grab the lead just four minutes into the game, through Erick Cabaco, who scored from Ruben Rochina’s free-kick.
Paco Lopez’s men then went on to double their advantage in the 18th minute, as Real Madrid loanee Borja Mayoral scored past Jasper Cillessen after he was sent through on goal by Emmanuel Boateng. The Granotas continued to threaten thereafter, while Aitor Fernandez constantly denied the Barcelona attack.
The visitors eventually did manage to score the elusive, albeit crucial goal after Denis Suarez was brought down inside the Levante box by Coke. Philippe Coutinho took the responsibility of scoring from the spot, and duly converted the penalty to leave the Copa del Rey Round of 16 tie tantalisingly close.
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The loss though, does throw up questions about Barcelona’s dependence on Lionel Messi. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men, following their disappointing loss on Thursday.
Jasper Cillessen: 7/10
Helpless in the face of defeat, Cillessen tried his best to keep Barcelona in the game, but not to much avail. The Dutchman though, was a major reason why the tie was not practically sealed by Levante in the first leg itself, making two top saves in particular. Could not have done much to stop the first two goals.
Nelson Semedo: 7/10
The most valiant of performers for Barcelona on Thursday, Semedo was constantly on the lookout for opportunities down the right flank, making a nuisance of himself and testing the Levante backline. At the back, the Portuguese defended astutely against Moses Simon, and was quite easily the best of the lot for Barcelona.
Jeison Murillo: 6/10
The Valencia loanee finally got his debut, althohgh it ended up being an occasion to forget. While the Colombian defended resolutely for the most part, he failed to fulfill one of his primary jobs properly – leading an inexperienced backline. Should have done better to stop Borja Mayoral from going through on goal and scoring his side’s second. Defended decently otherwise.
It was a trial by fire for Chumi, who was handed his strongest possible test yet in his nascent Barcelona senior career. It is safe to say, the youngster failed the test, first letting Cabaco have a clear sight at goal from point blank range before struggling to no end against Emmanuel Boateng. Taken off for Clement Lenglet to finally bring an end to his misery.
Juan Miranda: 5/10
Another Barcelona B regular who had a forgetful outing on Thursday. The talented full-back was visibly taken aback by the pace of the game pretty much from the get-go, and failed to provide anything of note on the opposite end before being hooked off at half-time. Will have learned a great deal from this failure in the long run.
Carles Alena: 6/10
A bundle of energy all through the game, Alena looked to be a threat when advancing forward. But, he too, played his part in letting Levante dominate the midfield battle, whenever they did. Some positives on show, and it is clear that the young Spaniard is still very much a work in progress.
Sergio Busquets: 6/10
A tough outing for Busquets, who had to do the job of two people at times. Chumi’s struggles forced the experienced midfielder deep and create a back-three, so as to alleviate some of the pressure. But, it was his error that directly contributed to Levante’s first goal. Failed to set the tempo of the game as he effortlessly does so often.
Arturo Vidal: 6/10
For much of the game, Vidal tried relentlessly to make things happen for an underwhelming Barcelona side. But, his end product did not always match the desire, with those in front of him far from their best too. Still, he was one of the few positives for the visitors on the night.
Thursday’s cup tie was Malcolm’s golden opportunity to spell the beginning of the end of his frustrations. But, the Brazilian failed to make complete use of this chance, showing little understanding with the likes of Alena, Vidal and Coutinho. Had one great chance to pull a goal back in the first half, but the finishing touches weren’t provided.
With his Barcelona future on the line, the chances are running out for Malcom.
Ousmane Dembele: 5.5/10
Dembele started in an unusual role as the striker on Thursday, and his inexperience in the position was quite evident. But, the fact that he failed to finish the chances that did fall his way should not be chalked down to inexperience, and that is where the Frenchman failed. Needs to do better whenever he has more responsibility on his shoulders.
Philippe Coutinho: 6/10
Another player who flattered to deceive. Coutinho looked to make things happen, but he wasn’t always on the same wavelength as the rest of his teammates upfront. Needs to be more creative, and at the moment, the Brazilian will do well to go back to basics. But, his goal from the spot does keep Barcelona in the tie. Small positives. But, he needs to step up, or else he could be on his way out soon.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
On for Miranda at half-time, Roberto seemed to struggle in positional sense at times. But, he used his experience well to provide the required stability at the back. Did not do much going forward.
Clement Lenglet: 6/10
Replacing the struggling Chumi, Lenglet brought a sense of control at the heart of the Barcelona defence, something that was dearly needed in the first half itself.
Denis Suarez: 7/10
A shock name to be excluded from the starting lineup, perhaps keeping in mind his impending Barcelona exit. But, when he came on, Denis was a bright spark, even earning the penalty that served as a way back into the Round of 16 tie. Might just have been his final outing for the Copa del Rey holders.