- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2016

MADRID (AP) - Barcelona did just enough to defeat last-place Levante 2-0 on Sunday and tie its all-time record of 28 consecutive games without a loss.

Barcelona took the lead with an own goal by Levante defender David Navarro in the 21st minute and sealed the victory with an injury-time score by Luis Suarez to match the unbeaten streak set by Pep Guardiola’s team in the 2010-11 season.

The result also kept Barcelona atop the Spanish league with 54 points, three more than Atletico Madrid, which defeated Eibar 3-1 on Saturday, and four more than third-place Real Madrid, which beat Granada 2-1 in the late game with goals by Karim Benzema and Luka Modric. Barcelona has a game in hand.

Benzema scored in the 30th, Youseff El Arabi equalized in the 60th and Modric netted Madrid’s winner with a remarkable long-range shot in the 85th, giving coach Zinedine Zidane his first away win since taking over the squad. Benzema has scored at least a goal in the last six matches.

Also Sunday, Gary Neville’s Valencia lost 1-0 at Real Betis in a result that extended the team’s winless streak in the league to 12 rounds, nine of those under the former England defender.

It was the 10th win in a row for Barcelona in all competitions. Luis Enrique’s squad hasn’t lost since a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the seventh round of the Spanish league in October.

“What matters to me are the team’s objectives,” said Enrique, who coached Barcelona for the 100th time on Sunday. “These are nice numbers, if they help us win titles at the end of the season, fantastic. We are in good position but there is still a lot left.”

Guardiola’s team in 2011 went on to win the league by four points over Real Madrid. It also won the Champions League, beating Manchester United in the final weeks later. That unbeaten streak ended with a 3-1 loss at Real Betis in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.

Both unbeaten teams won 23 games and drew five, each scoring more than 85 goals and allowing fewer than 15. Guardiola’s squad also won 10 in a row at one point.

The Barcelona team coached by Rinus Michels in the 1973-74 season, which had Johan Cruyff on the squad, also hadn’t lost in 27 straight games.

Barcelona faced difficulties against Levante on Sunday in the coastal city of Valencia.

Although the Catalan club controlled possession, Levante was able to contain the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suarez, whose goal came in the final seconds of the game.

“We suffered a lot until the end,” Barcelona midfielder Sergi Roberto said. “We were able to go ahead in the first half but Levante played well and pressured throughout the game. At the end we got that second goal and we have to be happy for winning the three points.”

The hosts threatened on a few occasions and had some good chances to score, especially on counterattacks. The local fans gave the team a standing ovation at the end of the game despite the loss at the Ciutat de Valencia Stadium.

“We played a very good match,” said Levante striker Jose Morales, who struck the post with a first-half shot. “We put pressure on them and created good chances but in the end it comes down to the quality of their players, who are extraordinary.”

Barcelona’s first goal came when Jordi Alba’s cross from inside the area struck Navarro’s back and bounced into his own net.

Suarez had few chances until finding the net with an easy goal following a breakaway just before the final whistle. It was Suarez’s 10th goal in his last six matches. The Uruguay striker is the league’s leading scorer with 20 goals, one more than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema.

Messi had a goal disallowed for an offside call after a great pass by Andres Iniesta less than five minutes into the game though replays were at odds with the decision.

Barcelona was coming off a 7-0 rout of Valencia in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey. It has outscored opponents 34-5 in its last 10 games.

Pressure on Neville increased after Valencia lost its second straight game in the league.

“It’s unacceptable that we haven’t won a league game in the six, seven weeks that I’ve been here,” Neville said. “That was a pretty solid away performance today. We had two or three moments that didn’t go our way. I continue to work and I continue to have belief.”

Valencia had an 89th-minute goal disallowed for offside. Ruben Castro scored Betis’ winner in the 49th.


Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide