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Barcelona kick off 2011 with hard fought win over levante

01-03-2011 12:05 BJT

MADRID, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- The connection between Barcelona defender Dani Alves and striker Pedro Rodriguez worked to perfection as the Spanish La Liga leaders cracked down resistance from struggling Levante to win their first game in 2011 2-1 in the Camp Nou Stadium.

Barcelona were struggling against Levante until the 47th minute of the match when Alves found space on the right, kept his cool and fed the ball to Pedro, who fired home through a crowd of players.

They combined again before the hour for Pedro to score his eighth goal of the season with a right foot shot from the end of the area.

Without central defenders Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, Guardiola produced a surprise in his starting 11 by dropping Sergio Busquets into defense and bringing Javier Mascherano into his midfield.

Leo Messi, who had been granted extra holiday time to travel home to Argentina, was also out of the side and replaced by Bojan Krkic.

Levante meanwhile played with just Rafa Jorda as a loan striker and quickly made it clear they had set their stall out to hang on for a 0-0 draw. Luis Garcia's men had lost their last game of 2010 8-0 to Real Madrid and in no mood for a repeat performance in the Camp Nou.

With nine men behind the ball at all times, Levante denied Barca space, while the league leaders looked slightly off the pace following the Christmas break.

Nevertheless Barca created chances to take the lead in the first half. Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Bojan all went close, while Levante keeper Manuel Reina made fine saves from Pedro and Xavi Hernandez, who was making his 549th appearance for Barcelona, to keep the scores level at the break.

The game opened up thanks to Pedro's two second half strikes and he was unlucky to see a third effort hit the crossbar.

Barcelona looked to be in complete control as Levante failed to react until substitute Christian Stauni fired home a magnificent volley from the edge of the area with 10 minutes remaining.

Barca, who had chances to make it 3-1, were able to hang on for a win that takes them five points clear of Real Madrid.

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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