Pedro provides hard-fought win (2-1)
Barça started 2011 with a harder win than expected against Levante. Pedro’s second half brace took some of the limelight away from Xavi, who equalled Migueli’s record for appearances.
Barcelona (FCB).- Barça always seem to struggle in their first games back after Christmas, and the same happened today against Levante. In an uncomfortable, gritty affair, they failed to find the net in the first half, and seemed to be missing Messi as they battled to find a way through the tight visiting defence. But after the restart, Pedro stepped up with two goals in thirteen minutes. A Stuani goal ten minutes before the end made for a nail-biting finish, but Barça clung on for their eleventh consecutive league victory.
The game started with everyone but Valdés in the Levante half, and Barça was clearly finding it difficult to find any spaces. Instead, they resorted to long shots, with Iniesta (min 7), Villa (min 13) and Pedro (min 40) all making sure that Reina had plenty to do in the first half.
Levante blocked the midfield, but as the game progressed, they started finding more fluid combinations and gradually wore down Luis García\u2019s ultra-defensive game plan. Although Levante managed to produce the occasional attack, they generally ended with good passes that failed to find strikers in a good position. Busquets and Abidal held an unusual centre back partnership.
It was a Barça monologue, and a seemingly interminable series of corners ensued, in which Reina proved time and time again to be somebody very difficult to outwit. Pedro pounces Levante had hung on brilliantly, but the second half was just a minute old when Pedro finished off a move that was triggered by Alves and continued by the record-breaking Xavi.
The goal gave Barça the breathing space they needed, and it was a far less tense affair from that moment on, and a similar series of passes led to the second, which was also converted by Pedro with an expertly delivered drive.
Barça restructured the midfield, which now featured Xavi, Keita and Thiago, the latter setting up the chance for Pedro to complete a hat trick, but his 71st minute shot struck the crossbar. But just when it looked like it was all over, the Uruguayan Stuani pulled one back with a tremendous left-footed strike.
There were ten minutes left, and Levante clearly believed they could get another, while Barcelona desperately went in search of a third goal to settle the result. Barça looked the more officious in their methods, while there was a certain innocence to Levante\u2019s hopeful long balls that searched for a miraculous equaliser.
Once the final whistle had blown, the fans were able to celebrate by listening to Xavi, who spoke to the crowd in the company of the rest of the squad. It was a fine way to end a far more nerve-racking evening than most of us had expected.
1-0 Pedro (min 46)
2-0 Pedro (min 58)
2-1 Stuani (min 81)