Madrid, May 14: Levante striker Emmanuel Boetang scored a hat-trick as they ended FC Barcelona’s dreams of going an entire La Liga football season without losing a single match with an incredible 5-4 win in the penultimate round of the Spanish first division.
Boetang on Sunday became the first player to score a hat-trick in the league against Barcelona since Diego Forlan did so in 2005, although after some dreadful defending, the Catalans fought back to almost snatch a dramatic draw, reports Xinhua news agency.
Barceloma had travelled to Valencia without Lionel Messi, Samuel Umtiti and the suspended Sergi Roberto. And the players fielded by coach Ernesto Valverde looked to be thinking about their holidays or the forthcoming World Cup as Levante produced a huge surprise, or what would have been a huge surprise had they not won seven of their last nine games prior to the weekend.
Two goals from Boetang inside 30 minutes put Levante 2-0 up before Phillipe Coutinho pulled one back for Barcelona before the break at the Ciudad de Valencia Stadium.
However, hopes of a Barcelona fightback looked to be dashed when Enis Bardhi made it 3-1 for Levante just 33 seconds into the second half before Boetang completed his hat-trick three minutes later and Bardhi added his second to make it 5-1 in the 55th minute.
The Levante fans were still celebrating when two rapid fire goals from Brazilian attacking midfielder Coutinho saw him complete his hat-trick and pull Barcelona back to 5-3 with just under half an hour remaining.
A penalty committed on Sergio Busquets then allowed Luis Suarez to score from the penalty spot to make it 5-4 with 20 minutes still to play. But despite Barcelona’s efforts, Levante were able to dig deep and end their incredible run of 43 games without tasting defeat.
To round off a disappointing night for Barca, Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen suffered an injury which must put his place at the World Cup in doubt. IANS