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Emmanuel Boateng scored a hat-trick as Levante stunningly ended Barcelona’s bid to finish this La Liga season unbeaten. The champions came unstuck at Estadi Ciutat de Valencia on Sunday, losing 5-4 to the side 15th in the table.
Enis Bardhi added a brace for the home side, while a Philippe Coutinho hat-trick and Luis Suarez penalty wasn’t enough to keep the champions’ run going.
Barca missed the influence of star forward Lionel Messi, who was rested, seemingly ahead of a friendly in South Africa. Even so, the manner of the defeat, even after a 43-match unbeaten run, is bound to raise uncomfortable questions about the league and Copa del Rey double winners.
Earlier, Espanyol delivered an emphatic 4-1 win over relegated Malaga at RCDE Stadium.
Here are the final scores from Sunday’s matches:
- Espanyol 4-1 Malaga
- Levante 5-4 Barcelona
Here’s what those results mean for the updated standings:
1. Barcelona: 37 (matches played), +69 (goal difference), 90 (points)
2. Atletico Madrid: 37, +36, 78
3. Real Madrid: 37, +50, 75
4. Valencia: 37, +26, 70
5. Villarreal: 37, +7, 60
6. Real Betis: 37, 0, 60
7. Sevilla: 37, -10, 55
8. Getafe: 37, +8, 52
9. Eibar: 37, -6, 50
10. Real Sociedad: 37, +8, 49
11. Girona: 37, -10, 48
12. Alaves: 37, -9, 47
13. Celta Vigo: 37, -3, 46
14. Espanyol: 37, -7, 46
15. Levante: 37, -12, 46
16. Athletic Bilbao: 37, -7, 43
17. Leganes: 37, -18, 40
18. Deportivo La Coruna: 37, -37, 29
19. Las Palmas: 37, -49, 22
20. Malaga: 37, -36, 20
Full standings are available, per BBC Sport.
Boateng put Levante 2-0 ahead against a Barcelona team shaky at the back. Thomas Vermaelen and Yerry Mina formed an uneasy partnership in the middle of Barca’s back four.
Vermaelen was withdrawn with injury before Boateng’s second, but substitute Gerard Pique did at least play a part in the move proceeding Coutinho’s opener. Barca were back in it but generally lacked ideas going forward without Messi.
Goal’s Ben Hayward bemoaned the decision to leave the prolific No. 10 out with a friendly on the horizon:
Ben Hayward @bghayward
After all the ‘invincible’ talk, it would be something of an anti-climax if Barcelona were to lose their unbeaten record away to Levante (and because they agreed to a friendly in South Africa days later). #LevanteBarca #FCBlive
The 5-1 scoreline was enough to shock many, but Andrew Gaffney of Yahoo Sport UK talked up the hosts’ capabilities:
Andrew Gaffney @GaffneyVLC
People might see this as a shock but Levante are *the* form side in LaLiga. They’ve won seven of their last nine (lost vs Atlético, drew vs Girona – both away). No mugs at all.
Levante should have had the points wrapped up when Bardhi scored either side of Boateng completing his hat-trick. Yet, Coutinho soon completed his own hat-trick, before Suarez struck from the spot with 19 minutes remaining.
Despite a frantic period of late pressure, the Blaugrana couldn’t complete what would have been a miraculous comeback in a scarcely believable game. While Barca won’t become La Liga’s first unbeaten finishers, their double-winning campaign still deserves respect.
Espanyol used their talent up front to overrun already relegated Malaga. Gifted centre-forward Gerard Moreno opened the scoring on eight minutes, before Sergio Garcia and Leo Baptistao added goals before the break.
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Malaga’s lone response came from the penalty spot, courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez. Yet another spot-kick, this one dispatched by substitute Pablo Piatti 11 minutes from time, put the right gloss on Espanyol’s classy performance.
It’s been a season to forget for Malaga, while Espanyol have one more game to improve on 14th place, a position too low for a side with this many match-winners in the final third.
Barca can still aim for 93 points when they host Real Sociedad on Sunday, a day after Villarreal try to hold on to fifth place when they welcome Real Madrid to El Madrigal.