Football Features

“Dembélé has to stay” – Ousmane equals Benzema (and much more) as Barcelona win five goal thriller vs Levante

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:34, 10 April 2022 | Updated: 22:47, 14 December 2022

Ousmane Dembélé has equalled Karim Benzema as Barcelona pulled off a sensational 2-3 win against Levante.

After a breathless first-half, Barcelona fell behind to a José Moralés penalty early in the second-half. However that lead last less than 10 minutes as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang nodded in an equaliser just short of the hour.

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The source of that equaliser? Ousmane Dembélé. After a scattershot first-half where he didn’t really create much despite being an obvious source of danger, and after missing an obvious pass to Aubameyang just minutes before, Dembélé turned it on.

The Frenchman, who the club tried to sell in January and whose contract expires at the end of the season, picked up the ball wide on the right, cut back onto his left foot and curled in a peach of a cross for Aubameyang to head home.

That assist was Dembélé’s 11th of the season in La Liga, which means no player has made more assists than the Barcelona winger this season. The Frenchman has drawn level with his compatriot despite playing less than half the amount of minutes the Real Madrid man has.

“Dembélé has to stay,” said Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after the match, and after displays like this you can see why. That makes it nine assists for Dembélé in his last seven games, a riduculous run for the Frenchman has he has truly risen from the ashes and established himself as a key member of Xavi’s Barcelona. Now the question remains: will he sign the contract?

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The drama didn’t end there, however. Levante got themselves another penalty, which was saved by Marc-André Ter Stegen. The German really showing his class as he works his way back to his best form. “He’s a hero of the game,” said Luuk de Jong of his goalkeeper.

Then Pedri and Gavi, who had come on just moments before Barcelona’s equaliser, combined sensationally to give Barcelona the lead as Gavi drove in from the right and found Pedri who swept the ball home.

“Even coming on cold he’s the hottest thing in La Liga,” said Pete Jensen of Pedri on LaLiga TV, and that is not just true but not even slightly hyperbolic. Pedri backed up his winner against Sevilla last week with this stunner now.

You thought that would have been the end of it, but then Clement Lenglet gave away a third penalty with a stupid and needless foul and Gonzalo Melero duly dispatched the penalty to draw Levante level again.

But the drama wasn’t done as deep into stoppage time, Jordi Alba whipped a cross into the box and supersub Luuk de Jong stooped to head in a dramatic late winner for Barcelona, moving them back up to second in the table.

That was De Jong’s sixth goal of the season, and the Dutchman has won a massive six points with those goals. Without him they’d be all the way down in sixth! “You want to be important for the team,” said De Jong after the match, and he was very much important tonight.

“We suffered a lot, but we won an amazing game,” said Xavi after the match to LaLiga TV.

“All the team did a very big effort,” said the Catalan coach, but he was highly critical of his side.

“We didn’t attack well, we didn’t understand where was the space.” Xavi’s ability to acknowledge that his team did well despite not playing well in general bodes nicely for the Catalan’s ability to lift the Blaugrana back to their best possible level now and in the future. The standards he sets are exceptionally high.