Lionel Messi scored again but was helpless to prevent Barcelona conceding three goals in seven minutes on Saturday as Levante stormed to a surprise 3-1 victory in La Liga.
Messi converted a first-half penalty at the City of Valencia Stadium for his sixth goal in five games only for Levante to stun the defending champions with an incredible treble shortly after the hour.
Jose Campana and Borja Mayoral scored in the 61st and 63rd minutes before Nemanja Radoja added a third in the 68th to finish Barca off and give Real Madrid the chance to move top of the table later on Saturday. Levante climb to eighth.
“Everything unravelled,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. “We didn’t start the second half well, we weren’t creating chances and although they weren’t either they suddenly scored two goals. The third one hurt us a lot.”
After seven consecutive wins in all competitions, Barcelona arrived as favourites to cement their place at the top, particularly given Messi’s irresistable form.
His goal here was the 500th of his career with his left foot and it looked likely to give Valverde’s team another three points until bedlam ensued in the second half.
“Opponents always play us like it is one of the biggest games of the year,” Valverde added. “You have to have an answer.”