BARCELONA, December 14
Lionel Messi dragged a nervous Barcelona to a 1-0 win at home to Levante in La Liga on Sunday to cool tensions after a chaotic week at the Catalan club. Barca had dominated the game but failed to keep their composure in front of goal until Messi latched on to a through ball from Frenkie de Jong and thumped it in off the far post in the 76th minute.
The Argentine punched the air more in relief than celebration, having fired blanks in Barca’s recent painful defeats by Cadiz and Juventus. Barca were still made to sweat to gain all three points, surviving a late VAR review for a possible handball against Samuel Umtiti plus a last-gasp volley from Levante player Son which landed in the hands of keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The win lifted Barca up to eighth in the standings on 17 points after 11 games, closing the gap with leaders Real Sociedad and second-placed Atletico Madrid to nine points.
Winning was all that mattered: Koeman
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said he was more interested in ensuring his side beat Levante rather than focusing on the manner in which they won. Barca were left begging for the full-time whistle as Levante pegged them back deep into the five minutes of added time.
Koeman brought on defender Samuel Umtiti for striker Antoine Griezmann late on to help his side see out the game and was forced to defend what was interpreted as a defensive move unbefitting of a Barcelona coach.
“I didn’t care how we won the game,” Koeman told a news conference. “We knew we’d have to face corners and set-pieces and that we had to defend by whichever way possible.”
The Dutch coach appeared frustrated with being questioned by his tactics by reporters, who he accused of seeking controversy. “That is the typical question people ask when they are looking to cause a stir,” he fired back.
“Throughout my whole life I’ve always understood that when you’re 1-0 up, even if you are in control, you have to be able to defend. If you can’t understand that, you might as well give up.” — Reuters