Levante 3-3 Barcelona: Leon strikes massive blow to Blaugrana's title hopes
Sergio Leon's late equaliser struck a massive blow to Barcelona's LaLiga title hopes as Levante fought back to salvage a 3-3 draw.
Barca looked to be cruising to the top of the table with a victory at Estadi Ciutat de Valencia on Tuesday courtesy of Lionel Messi's 37th goal of the season and Pedri's first-half tap-in.
Yet two goals in as many second-half minutes from Gonzalo Melero and Jose Luis Morales pegged the fragile Catalan giants back.
Ousmane Dembele put Barca back in front, but Leon provided another dramatic twist when he levelled seven minutes from time.
Ronald Koeman's side paid the price for defensive frailties and trail Atletico Madrid - who have a game in hand - by a point with only two matches to play.
The Blaugrana swarmed all over Levante from the start and an unmarked Pedri fired a glorious opportunity over the crossbar before the teenager was denied by Aitor Fernandez.
Messi produced a moment of class to open the scoring 25 minutes in, though, showing great technique to volley beyond Fernandez with his magical left foot after a deflected cross looped into his path.
Jordi Alba spurned a good chance to add a second when he was picked out by a sumptuous Messi pass, but Pedri doubled Barca's lead nine minutes before the break.
Dembele displayed excellent pace and power to get away from Oscar Duarte after being slipped in by Messi and poked the ball across for Pedri, who could not miss from six yards out.
Levante looked like a different side after the interval and Melero rose above Sergi Roberto - on to replace the injured Ronald Araujo - to head home Jorge Miramon's cross 12 minutes into the second half.
Morales then took advantage of a poor touch from Messi by playing a one-two with Roger Marti and equalising with a brilliant left-foot finish.
Barca looked rattled but they were back in front courtesy of some slack Levante defending, Dembele on target with a thumping right-foot drive after Miramon inadvertently set him up with 64 minutes gone.
Yet Koeman’s men continued to look shaky at the back and they were punished again when substitute Leon nipped in front of Gerard Pique at the near post to turn in a cross from Tono.
What does it mean? Brittle Barca don't resemble champions
Levante had picked up only one point from their previous five games and it was easy to see why as Barca cut them open in the first half.
Yet Koeman's men capitulated in a crazy second-half spell in which they looked complacent, squandering their lead all too easily.
Dembele seemed to have come to the rescue, only for the Blaugrana to switch off yet again. Atleti remain in the driving seat in the title race, with Real Madrid only a point behind Barca with a game in hand.
After missing a glorious late chance to snatch a victory in the goalless draw with Atleti on Saturday, Dembele responded with a goal and an assist.
The France forward's pace caused Levante real problems and he provided three key passes in a game Barca could have had wrapped up by half-time.
Sergi Roberto caught cold
Koeman might rue sending Sergi Roberto on at half-time, as he looked lost at the back.
He could have put up a much stronger challenge to prevent Melero from pulling a goal back and never appeared to be comfortable, with Leon's leveller coming from a cross whipped in from the left by Tono.
Key Opta Facts
- Messi has been involved in at least one goal in each of his last 11 meetings with Levante in LaLiga, scoring a total of 14 goals and recording 10 assists.
- Messi scored with his first touch in the opposite box in the 25th minute, becoming the LaLiga player to have scored the most goals away from home in all competitions this season (15, Villarreal's Gerard Moreno 14).
- Two of Pedri's four goals for Barcelona in all competitions have been assisted by Dembele. All three of the Frenchman's assists in LaLiga this season have been away from home (at Granada, at Real Betis & at Levante).
- Dembele scored and assisted in a single LaLiga game for the second time in 79 matches (also at Espanyol in December 2018). He has scored & assisted in three games in all competitions in 2020-21 (two vs Ferencvaros in the Champions League), his best season for Barcelona.
Barca must pick themselves up for a home encounter against Celta Vigo on Sunday, while Levante are on the road at Getafe this weekend.