Ousmane Dembele, Lionel Messi team up to comfortably overturn Levante's first-leg Copa lead
BARCELONA, Spain -- Ousmane Dembele scored twice as Barcelona beat Levante 3-0 to progress to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, advancing 4-2 on aggregate after last week's surprise defeat in Valencia.
Dembele, twice assisted by Lionel Messi, moved Barca ahead in the tie with two fortuitous finishes in the first half. Messi added Barca's third after the break as the Catalans continued their bid for a fifth successive Spanish cup success.
Ernesto Valverde could not have hoped for a more convincing performance from his players. They were 2-0 up at the break, but it could have been five or six. Barca had 16 shots in the first half -- more than any other first half in all competitions since at least the 2013-2014 season, per Opta. The comeback win means the hunt for a Treble remains very much alive.
On an individual basis, there was another good showing from Dembele, while new signing Jeison Murillo already looks fairly settled in the back four.
Barca might be through to the last eight of the cup, but there's a chance they might still be thrown out. Levante will complain to the Royal Spanish Federation [RFEF] that the Catalans fielded an ineligible player in last week's first leg. Barca B defender Juan "Chumi" Brandariz, they will say, should have been suspended for the match. He served a one-game ban due to an accumulation of five yellow cards for the B team in a league game three days later. Barca sources have told ESPN FC they have not breached any rules as it was a different competition. The RFEF will have the final say.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Ernesto Valverde showed how much the cup means to Barca by picking Messi from the start. However, he managed to get the balance right between regulars and not-so-regulars. Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suarez were all left on the bench, with Murillo, Arturo Vidal and Philippe Coutinho all getting their chances. Valverde struck the perfect balance.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jasper Cillessen, 6 -- Rarely troubled by Levante, who never seemed to believe they could hold on to their first-leg lead. Produced plenty of nifty footwork, too.
DF Nelson Semedo, 7 -- A decent performance in attack and defence. Set up Messi's goal via a good run and pass, while also using his pace to ensure Barca weren't left outnumbered on the counterattack.
DF Jeison Murillo, 7 -- Making his second start since joining from Valencia, the Colombian centre-back looked composed and confident. Will be a good option when Pique and Clement Lenglet -- and possibly Samuel Umtiti, if he recovers from a knee injury -- need resting later in the campaign.
DF Clement Lenglet, 7 -- Another assured performance from the French defender, although he did struggle to deal with Emmanuel Boateng's pace at times.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 -- A quiet evening by Alba's standards. Plenty of forays down the left but little real action. Taken off for a breather midway through the second half.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 -- Looks so at ease as the deepest of Barca's midfield three when he fills in for Busquets. Reads the game so well and clever in possession.
MF Arturo Vidal, 7 -- Literally everywhere. The Chilean makes plenty of mistakes, picking wrong passes and giving the ball away, but you can't help but feel Barca benefit from his all-action style in the middle of the park. Links well with the forwards and supports the defence.
MF Arthur, 7 -- His incredible debut season continues. It's hard to imagine a Barca midfield without him. Give him the ball and he will keep it and move it on, twisting and turning his way out of pressure when necessary.
FW Ousmane Dembele, 8 -- Scored two goals, but there was a touch of fortune about both, with neither finish convincing. Goals aside, this was a mature performance. His decision-making has come on leaps and bounds this season. The ability to beat a man with trickery and pace always brings the supporters to their feet. Brilliant in the build-up to Messi's goal as well.
FW Lionel Messi, 8 -- Denied by three brilliant Aitor Fernandez saves in the first half but still managed to set up both of Dembele's goals. Finally added his name to the scoresheet with a smart finish after the break.
FW Philippe Coutinho, 6 -- Still predictable at times, cutting on to his right foot from the left and looking to shoot. It was notable the one time he didn't do that, turning outside onto his left foot, he almost scored. Offered some moments of quality but was too hot and cold in general.
FW Luis Suarez, 5 -- Didn't need to come on with Barca 3-0 up but did anyway. Struggled to adapt to the game, making some heavy touches and firing his best chance miles off target.
DF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Came on at left-back for the second week running so that Alba could rest.
MF Denis Suarez, 6 -- A couple of moments of real class, one setting up a good chance for namesake Luis. However, wasted his best opportunity when set up by Roberto.