Barcelona completed the turnaround in their Round of 16 tie against Levante in stunning fashion, coasting to a 3-0 win at Camp Nou on Thursday.
Barcelona dominated the proceedings from the get-go, conjuring up plenty of chances in the first half an hour, with Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal coming close to scoring. The breakthrough finally came in the 30th minute through a deflected Ousmane Dembele strike, after the Frenchman was played through by Messi.
Dembele doubled his tally just a minute later, with Messi providing the assist once again. There was an element of luck involved in the second goal as well, with Dembele scuffing his shot before it was deflected by Aitor Fernandez into his own net.
Barcelona continued their domination thereafter as well, with Philippe Coutinho denied by the offside flag. The tie though, was put to bed early into the second half, with Messi finally getting his name on the score sheet, putting the ball into the bottom left corner after latching on to a squared pass by Nelson Semedo.
🏆 THERE'S THE WHISTLE! Barça easily dispatch Levante and qualify for the Copa del Rey quarter-finals!
⌛️FT: Barça 3 – 0 Levante (4-2 agg)
⚽️ Dembélé 30', 31'; #Messi 54'
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 17, 2019
Levante could never quite manage to threaten Jasper Cillessen, although they have lodged an official complaint to the Spanish Football Federation to disqualify Barcelona for fielding Chumi “illegally” in the first leg.
For now, the Copa del Rey holders are into the quarter-finals, and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Jasper Cillessen: 6/10
On what was a quiet night, Cillessen had barely anything to do on the night, with Levante not even forcing one regulation save out of him. The Dutchman just needed to distribute the ball well, which he did without much fuss. As easy as they come.
Nelson Semedo: 7/10
The game was tailor-made for a full-back like Semedo, with Barcelona dominating the proceedings. The Portuguese was a constant outlet on the right flank, linking up well with Ousmane Dembele on the right flank. Delivered the assist for Messi and defended well, whenever needed.
Jeison Murillo: 7/10
With Levante barely threatening, Murillo fared much better than he had done last week on his debut. Kept a check on Borja Mayoral all game long, which is where he had struggled in the first leg. Share good understanding with Clement Lenglet, with the duo keeping a tight lid on the visitors’ attacking output.
Clement Lenglet: 7/10
Chumi had struggled to no end against the burly Emmanuel Boateng, and Lenglet was a major upgrade on the La Masia product. Led the backline with aplomb and moved the ball along at pace, which helped Barcelona moving forward as well.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Thursday’s encounter was one that Alba usually revels in. But, the experienced full-back was not quite at his best on the day, with his end product lacking quite severely. Defended astutely whenever he was called into action, and his attacking deficiencies did not pile on the pressure on the hosts.
Ivan Rakitic: 7/10
With Sergio Busquets rested, Ivan Rakitic played in a position has started taking to quite well, playing as the deepest midfielder for Barcelona. The Croat linked up well with the defence behind him while setting up the tempo of the game that allowed the Blaugrana to constantly create chances. Such an asset for the Copa del Rey holders.
Arturo Vidal: 8/10
This was a game that showed Vidal’s growing confidence in the side. The Chilean was everywhere in the final third, which took some pressure off Lionel Messi. Came close with a couple of chances as well, and he is now starting to become the kind of midfielder that Paulinho was last season, and more.
If Vidal was the all-action midfielder, Arthur impressed with his ability to pull the strings, and he was inches away from finding the back of the net too. The Brazilian has not let the void of Andres Iniesta be felt dearly. A proper midfield general.
Ousmane Dembele: 9/10
Ousmane Dembele has this season scored in:
️⚽️ La Liga
️⚽️ Champions League
️⚽️ Super Cup
️⚽️ Copa Del Rey 🆕
The only Barca player to do so in 2018-19. pic.twitter.com/2Kd70ZrPxs
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 17, 2019
What a turnaround of fortunes Dembele is enjoying. A livewire from the first minute, the Frenchman’s pace had the Levante defence in sixes and sevens, which allowed Messi to find him ever so effortlessly. Did have his fair share of luck for both the goals, but that was nothing less than what he deserved on the night. Could have even had a hat-trick on another day.
Lionel Messi: 8.5/10
Starting in the False Nine role, Messi took up the spaces in the hole and was the creative force for Barcelona. The club captain set up Dembele for both goals ever so well, and finally found the back of the net in the second half.
Another player who might have netted a hat-trick, if not for Aitor Fernandez. Nevertheless, this was a night when Messi completed 800 direct contributions to a goal as a Barcelona player – a staggering record that might never be matched, let alone bettered.
Lionel Messi Barcelona appearances: 660
Lionel Messi Barcelona goals and assists: 800
🤷♂️ Fifth best in the world pic.twitter.com/PyHgj5x4fB
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) January 18, 2019
Philippe Coutinho: 6/10
Coutinho hustled a lot on Thursday, but it just wasn’t to be for him on the night. Too predictable at times, he was blocked denied easily when he looked to cut in on his right foot. Thought he had scored early in the first half, only to be denied by the offside flag, and rightly so. Still, there were several moments to remember, and the Brazilian just needs to build on them.
Luis Suarez: 6/10
On for Coutinho, Suarez linked up well with Messi, but could never quite come close to scoring on the night. He did not need to either, with Barcelona in control.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
Roberto allowed Alba some much needed rest, and was quite comfortable as the left-back. Even created a great chance for Denis Suarez, who spurned it.
Denis Suarez: N/A
On for the final 10 minutes or so, Denis Suarez was in the fine mood, complete with some neat touches on the ball. Should have scored a late goal for his side, only to fluff his lines.