FC Barcelona are Liga champions again. And they’ve done it playing football that has thrilled the world and with no fewer than three games in hand.
Atlético Madrid had done their homework earlier in the day, so the Catalans needed all three points from their game with Levante, and those three points proved a lot harder to peg down than many would have expected.
One goal decided it in the end, and although he didn’t start the game, that goal came from a very familiar source…
Chance after chance
Barça were hell-bent on getting this game, and the title, secured as soon as possible.
The first half was an extraordinary affair. From start to finish Levante, who have never picked up a point at Camp Nou, were subjected to a constant onslaught. And yet the Liga strugglers somehow came out of it unscathed.
There were chances for everyone, with even Clément Lenglet and Nélson Semedogoing up for pops, and Philippe Coutinho more active than anyone, but 13 shots, seven of them on target, were not enough to beat Aitor Fernández, the Levante keeper kitted out in confusingly similar colours to the rest of his team.
Captain to the rescue
Leo Messi was missing for all of this. Ernesto Valverde was resting his star asset with the Champions league in mind, but opted to send him on for the second half.
The Argentinian made his presence felt from the moment he first touched the ball. And after 15 minutes of trouble-making he was on the end of an Arturo Vidal header, nudging the ball past two defenders and gliding it into the net.
Barça 1-0, competitive goal number 598 for Messi, and time to start tying the blaugrana ribbons on the Liga trophy…
Levante battle back
The stadium started celebrating, but… Happy enough with a potential point at Camp Nou to that stage, Levante started playing their best football while Barça were uncharacteristically erratic for a period. An equaliser would mean putting the cava on hold for at least another week…
With two minutes to go, they very nearly got it. The ball bounced off the post, Ter Stegen, outstanding in keeping at bay the late surge from the visitors, was upon it with a pounce.
Still Levante came but it only served to make the final whistle even more welcome when it blew – the sound that confirmed it.
Barça, league champions yet again! Two in a row, eight out of the last eleven … and let the fireworks begin!