Barcelona blew their chance to finish the season unbeaten, losing a crazy game in Levante that had two hat-tricks, nine goals, and a defensive horror show from the Spanish champions.
Phillipe Coutinho will never forget his first Barcelona hat-trick. He did more than most to prevent an historic defeat – scoring three goals but ending up on the losing side.
Lionel Messi had been left at home resting and it would be easy to conclude his absence cost Barcelona their unbeaten record but Barcelona had no problems scoring. It was stopping Levante from doing likewise that they could not manage.
Emmanuel Boateng also grabbed a hat-trick as Yerry Mina struggled at the back first with Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen alongside him. And then, when the former Arsenal man hobbled off with a hamstring injury, Gerard Pique.
After the madness, Sergio Busquets reflected: ‘Clearly we wanted to finish the season unbeaten but this takes nothing away from the great season we have had.
‘If a team scores five against you it is very difficult to come away with anything from the game. ‘We had chances to draw the game but it was not to be. We have still had an incredible season to be proud of.’
Levante took the lead on nine minutes. A poor clearance from Mina gifted Levante possession on the edge of the Barcelona area. Jose Luis Morales got on his bike motoring to the byline past the hapless Mina and when he pulled the ball back Boateng hooked in from close range.
It was so nearly 2-0 moments later when Enis Bardhi hit the frame of the goal with Barcelona’s defence once again all over the place. Mina was partnering Vermaelen in the centre of the defence with Gerard Pique on the bench.
Levante went 15 games without a win midseason but when Paco Lopez took over he took the team on a run of seven wins in nine games dragging them away from the bottom of the table.
Vermaelen was booked for chopping down Boateng on the touchline. The Ghanian was a constant threat and the Belgian was suffering alongside Mina in a shaky Barcelona defence. Things got worse for him on 28 minutes when his right hamstring gave way and he had to hobble off.
It was bad news for Barcelona and for England’s World Cup rivals Belgium with the tournament just a month away.
Gerard Pique was not ready to come on and instead of Vermaelen going to ground and Barcelona putting the ball out to give him time to warm-up, they inexplicable rushed the Belgian off the pitch and continued momentarily with 10.