Barcelona 2 - 1 Levante: Full Time - Barca Hold On To Start 2011 With Win

It was by no means a vintage display from Barcelona, but Guardiolas team just about did enough to wrap up an important three points, putting themselves five points infront of Real Madrid at the top of the table ahead of Madrids away match at Getafe tomorrow night. They proved there is life after Messi, as Pedro sealed the win with a clinical double, as Levante could only manage a late consolation effort from substitute Stuani.

The first half was a dogged affair as Barca struggled to get into their stride, thanks in large part to an industrious display from Levantes defence and midfield. And if Perez Lasa had brought his glasses with him, Levante might well have gone in at the break a goal to the good. Juanlu was blatantly tripped by Eric Abidal as the striker controlled in the area, but the ref waved play on. It was indicative of a nervy opening 45 minutes for Barcelonas defence.

Barcelona flew out of the blocks after half-time, and were one up after 46 minutes when Dani Alves laid the ball back to Pedro, who made no mistake from 10 yards out. The same two players were at it again ten minutes later, as Alves sent a measured cutback to Pedro who curled in first-time from the edge of the box. Much had been made of the absence of Barcas first-choice centre-back pairing, Pique and Puyol, but Sergio Busquets performed admirably alongside Abidal in the second half to ensure Levante were limited to half chances.

With the inventive Thiago then replacing Mascherano, Barcelona began to play with their customary swagger, but just as the errors began to creep into their game, Levante pulled themselves back in it with a wonderful volley from sub Stuani. Levante threw bodies forward in search of an unlikely equaliser, but Barcelona held on to record a vital win in their fight for La Liga. All eyes on Real Madrid who desparately need to record a win tomorrow night if they are to keep in touching distance of Barca.

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