Messi helps Barcelona end losing skid with 1-0 win against Levante
Barcelona, Dec. 14 (AP/PTI): Facing another setback in an already difficult season, Lionel Messi found his finishing touch to save Barcelona from falling further behind in the Spanish league.
Messi’s late goal secured a hard-fought 1-0 home victory over Levante on Sunday to end a two-game losing skid for Barcelona.
Messi fired a left-footed shot off the far post and into the net to get Barcelona’s breakthrough in the 76th minute after Levante had withstood the hosts with tenacious defending.
“Teams focus on defending Messi, marking him with several players, but today he proved decisive,” Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said.
The victory for Barcelona came after last round’s upset loss to C diz and a 3-0 home defeat to Juventus in the Champions League.
Barcelona still has a long way to go to get back in the title race, but it was able to claw back some ground after front-runners Real Sociedad and Atltico Madrid both dropped points this weekend. Barcelona is in eighth place at nine points behind the leaders. Barcelona and Atltico have played two fewer games than Sociedad.
Koeman hopes the win will solidify a team that he is struggling to rebuild on the fly this season, ahead of its crucial game on Wednesday when Sociedad comes to Camp Nou.
“Our situation in the league made it necessary to win to reduce the difference,” Koeman said.
“Today it was very, very important to win this game. Hopefully it will give us a boost of confidence for Wednesday’s game.”
Levante goalkeeper Aitor Fern ndez kept Levante in the match with multiple stops to deny Messi, Martin Braithwaite, Antoine Griezmann and Jordi Alba.
Messi finally beat Fern ndez with his 10th shot of the match. He was set up by Frenkie de Jong after the Netherlands midfielder and Braithwaite stole possession from MickaelMalsa inside Levante’s half.
Fern ndez got his hands to Messi’s powerful strike, but not enough to keep it out.
“It was too bad I couldn’t get more of a touch on his strike, said Fern ndez, whose team stayed in the relegation zone. We made one mistake and that led to their goal.”