Lionel Messi scored one penalty and missed another as his double helped Barcelona sweep Levante UD aside in the second half in a 4-1 victory on Sunday to maintain their perfect La Liga start.
Last season’s treble winners lead the standings with 12 points ahead of three teams, including arch rivals Real Madrid, on 10, having won all of their four games so far.
Defender Marc Bartra showed composure to open the scoring by converting a Messi cross after 50 minutes with Barca having been frustrated in the first half by a well-organized Levante side.
With the game having opened up, Neymar finished clinically after 55 minutes and won a penalty on the hour that was converted by Messi.
At the other end, Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen flapped at a cross that allowed Victor to slot the ball home after 65 minutes.
Messi blazed a second penalty over the bar after he himself was fouled, but the Argentine did score again with a drive from the edge of the area a minute from time.
Youth players Sandro Ramirez and Munir El Haddadi were both given their chance in the Barca attack with coach Luis Enrique resting Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta, while in a tactical change Messi began in a deeper role behind the front three.
Munir had Barca’s best chance in the first half, but despite having teammates well-placed, he chose to go for goal and his shot was smothered by goalkeeper Ruben Martinez.
However, Bartra showed the forwards the way when he chested down a cross and slotted the ball in expertly after the restart.
Neymar slotted the ball past a crowd of players to add to the lead and was then brought down by Angel Trujillo with Messi scoring the penalty.
After Victor bagged a consolation for Levante, Messi was left frustrated with his penalty miss having been fouled by Zouhair Feddal, but he made up for it with a trademark goal.
He picked up possession on the right channel and ran with the ball to within 20m before unleashing a shot into the bottom corner.
Earlier, Nolito hit the opening goal for RC Celta de Vigo who took advantage of a lethargic first half from Sevilla to win 2-1.
Sevilla went behind when the defence gave Nolito time in the box to pick his spot after 15 minutes and Daniel Wass extended Celta’s lead after 26 minutes with a low drive into the corner.
Sevilla came to life in the second half and substitute Fernando Llorente got his first goal for the club, but they could not find an equalizer.
A Bruno Soriano penalty followed by goals from Mario Gaspar and Leo Baptistao gave Villarreal a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao, who got a late consolation through Aritz Aduriz.
An Antonio Sanabria double helped Real Sporting de Gijon to a 3-2 win at RC Deportivo de La Coruna and Javi Guerra gave Rayo Vallecano de Madrid a 1-0 victory over UD Las Palmas.
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Three new COVID-19 cases yesterday hit the Australian Open’s troubled buildup as a backlash grew against international tennis players flown in during a raging pandemic. Two of the new cases were players, state health officials said, taking the total infections to seven since more than 1,000 people arrived in largely COVID-19-free Australia on charter flights last week. The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services said that the two players and a third person associated with the tournament — a woman in her 20s, and two men in their 30s — had returned positive results. The year’s first Grand Slam, delayed three weeks,