By 90Min
April 27, 2019

Barcelona claimed their eighth La Liga title in 11 years, as Lionel Messi came off the bench to sink visitors Levante in a slightly stressful 1-0 victory at Camp Nou on Saturday evening.

La Blaugrana dominated possession and territory for the entirety of the contest, yet looked toothless as they let their opponents off on countless occasions. However, their Argentine superstar was introduced at half-time and finally broke the deadlock, sweeping a shot into the far corner just after the hour mark to guarantee top spot with three games to spare.

Barça were guilty of wastefulness in the first period, squandering a whole host of presentable opportunities after incisive build-up play. Philippe Coutinho could have had a hat-trick inside 30 minutes, but was continuously denied by the outstanding Aitor Fernandez in the Levante goal. 

The former Liverpool playmaker watched the goalkeeper parry a couple of skidding efforts behind, before missing a gilt-edge chance as his free header from 10 yards out went straight down Fernandez's throat.

Despite his frustrations, Coutinho looked to be in a determined mood and rattled the crossbar with a marvellous free-kick. However, he was replaced by Messi at the break, the substitution proving to be decisive for the newly-crowned La Liga champions.

David Ramos/GettyImages

Ivan Rakitic was unlucky to see a delicious long-range arrow drift just wide, though Barça were not to be denied. Soon after the Croat issued that warning, the crowd were brought to their feet as their talisman struck a crucial blow.


The home side were fortunate to remain in front, however, Las Granotas almost snatching an unexpected equaliser. They were afforded several chances to level matters, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen first thwarted Borja Mayoral when the striker was played through on goal, before stopping a couple of point-blank headers.


The German international was powerless to stop Enis Bardhi's precise side-footed in the dying embers of the match, but was relieved to see it bounce back off the upright and into his grateful arms. 

LLUIS GENE/GettyImages

Check out our breakdown of the game below.


Barcelona

Key Talking Point

For all their masterful interplay and ability to carve out opportunities, Ernesto Valverde's men were lacking a clinical edge. 

Luis Suarez was one of a handful of players who disappointed on Saturday night. He doesn't appear to have the necessary fitness levels as he drifted through the game. If this victory proved anything, it is that the Catalans rely heavily upon Messi.

David Ramos/GettyImages

He was the difference, slotting home to secure Barcelona's spot on the Spanish throne. But, can they really win against Liverpool in midweek if they continue to struggle in front of goal. 

The Reds are rampant at the moment, meaning the La Liga club will need to bring their usual accuracy to overcome them. Fail to do that and they may have to settle for just domestic silverware this campaign.


Player Ratings


Starting XI: ter Stegen (7); Semedo (6), Pique (6), Lenglet (5), Alba (6); Rakitic (5), Vidal (7), Arthur (7); Dembele (8*), Coutinho (6), Suarez (5).

Substitutes: Messi (7), Busquets (5), Roberto (6).

STAR MAN - Ousmane Dembele 


Dembele was a constant danger, always keeping the Levante defenders on the back foot with his direct dribbling and intelligent runs off the ball. He linked wonderfully well with Nelson Semedo down the right flank in the opening half, getting in behind the opposition defence on a number of occasions.

The Frenchman thrilled the crowd with his fearless, incessant drives forward, whilst his teammates should have made more of his superb deliveries into the box. Dembele's role changed when he switched to the opposite side, the winger drifting inside and feeding deft throughballs on to others in red and blue.

Messi may have been the goalscorer, but it was the ex-Borussia Dortmund wide man who dominated proceedings. Many of those around him put in underwhelming performances, but Dembele can be mightily proud of his night's work.


Levante

Player Ratings


Starting XI: Fernandez (8); Coke (7), Vezo (5), Rober (7), Luna (6); Campana (5), Vuckevic (7), Jason (5), Rochina (6), Simon (4); Mayoral (6).

Substitutes: Marti (6), Bardhi (7), Morales (5).


Looking Ahead

The Catalans play the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie with the Reds on Wednesday, welcoming Jurgen Klopp's buoyant side to the Nou Camp. They follow that up with a league fixture away to relegation-threatened Celta Vigo, with Valverde likely to rest players given the team's European commitments.

Las Granotas have a home game against Rayo Vallecano next Saturday before making the trip to the Estadi Montilivi the following week to take on Girona.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)