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FC Barcelona extended the longest unbeaten run across Europe’s top five leagues to 14 matches, defeating Levante 3-2 at an electric Estadio Ciudad de València to consolidate their position in La Liga’s UEFA Champions League qualification zone.

Despite missing key first-team players, the hosts were inches away from taking the lead in the 27th minute. Only a combination of Marc-André ter Stegen’s hand and boot, before Eric García’s last-ditch goal line clearance, prevented José Luis Morales from celebrating a solo goal straight out of Lionel Messi’s playbook. The remainder of the first half saw only brief bursts of industry at either end, but the visitors were certainly fortuitous not to be heading into HT behind.

Levante were handed a glorious opportunity to open the scoring only seven minutes into the second period, when referee José Luis Munuera Montero pointed to the spot, after a marauding Son had been body-checked by Danny Alves on his way to goal. Not to be denied for the second time in the contest, Morales confidently stepped up to send ter Stegen in the opposite direction and the Estadio Ciudad de València into rapturous celebrations.

However, Morales’ decision to allow his strike-partner Roger Martí to take a second penalty in the space of four minutes, after Gavi had handled in the area, spectacularly backfired when the ’Barça’ number one brilliantly saved the resulting spot-kick. Predictably, it was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang that made Levante pay only three minutes later, when the Gabon international headed Ousmane Dembélé’s delightful cross past Dani Cárdenas, netting his eighth goal since joining the Catalan giants at the end of January.

Only four minutes later, the second-half introductions of Pedri and Gavi proved to be a tactical masterclass from Xavi, when the compatriots’ well-crafted exchange of passes on the edge of the penalty area allowed Pedri to deliver an exquisitely-struck strike into the bottom left-hand corner for 2-1. Against all odds, Levante were awarded a third penalty, when Clément Lengletit was penalised for a clumsily foul. Gonzalo Melero subsequently stepped up as Levante’s third different penalty taker of the evening, and netted confidently to bring the enthralling encounter level with seven minutes of regular time remaining.

As is often their way under the current regime though, Barcelona ultimately had the last laugh, when substitute Luuk de Jong got a fraction ahead of the hosts’ defence to send a glancing header past a distraught Cárdenas in the 92nd-minute, finally sealing all three points to keep Barcelona’s amazing story of resurrection going into a vital Easter period.

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