Lionel Messi scored late to give Barcelona a 1-0 win over Levante and keep his team from falling further behind in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Messi fired a left-footed shot off the far post and into the net to get Barcelona’s breakthrough in the 76th minute after Levante had withstood the hosts with tenacious defending.
The victory for Barcelona came after last round’s upset loss to Cádiz and a 3-0 home defeat to Juventus in the Champions League.
Barcelona still has a long way to go to get back in the title race, but it was able to claw back some ground after front-runners Real Sociedad and Atlético Madrid both dropped points this round.
Barcelona is in eighth place at nine points behind the leaders. Barcelona and Atlético have played two fewer games than Sociedad.
Messi finally beat Levante goalkeeper Aitor Fernández with his 10th shot of the match. He was set up by Frenkie de Jong after the Netherlands midfielder and Martin Braithwaite gained possession inside Levante’s half.
SOCIEDAD BACK ON TOP
Sociedad returned to the top of the standings after drawing 1-1 at home with Eibar.
The San Sebastian-based club pulled level with Atlético on points and moved into first place on total goals scored with the two teams having the same goal difference.
Atlético had its first loss of the season on Saturday when it fell 2-0 at city rival Real Madrid.
Ander Barrenetxea put Sociedad ahead in the 20th with a powerful strike from the edge of the area. The 18-year-old forward pounced on a clearance and lashed the ball off the crossbar and into the net.
Eibar improved in the second half led by the playmaking of Bryan Gil. The midfielder on loan from Sevilla cued the 65th-minute equalizer after dribbling past two defenders on the left and crossing for Takashi Inui, who squared the ball for fellow halftime substitute Sergi Enrich to score.
Villarreal remained in fourth place, one point behind third-place Madrid, after it was held 1-1 at Real Betis.
It was a fourth consecutive draw for Unai Emery’s side.
Spain defender Pau Torres headed Villarreal in front five minutes after kickoff, but the visitors lost several players to injury and were unable to build on a strong start. Betis’ Aitor Ruibal equalized in the 51st.
Villarreal’s Pervis Estupiñán, Vicente Iborra and Francis Coquelin all left the game injured.
Colombian striker Luis Suárez scored for a third straight league match to help Granada beat Elche 1-0.
Granada ended its five-round winless streak.