MADRID, Spain– Ansu
Fati became the youngest player ever to score a brace in La Liga on Sunday by
capitalising on two brilliant Lionel Messi assists to give Barcelona a 2-1
victory over Levante. 

Fati, at 17 years and 94 days old, broke the previous record
held by Juanmi Jimenez, who scored twice for Malaga against Real Zaragoza at 17
years and 115 days old in 2010. 

Messi teed up Fati’s quick-fire double with a
defence-splitting pass and then a trademark weaving run before Ruben Rochina
scored Levante’s goal in the 92nd minute, which really should have come sooner.

Barca reduce the gap at the top to three points behind Real
Madrid and begin to regain some rhythm under new coach Quique Setien after
Thursday’s 5-0 thumping of Leganes in the Copa del Rey. 

“We could have won 8-2 or 8-3,” said Setien.
“We lost a little control in the second half and conceded too much but it
was a good job from the team.”

Yet Levante should have converted more of a handful of
excellent chances in the second half, that suggested Barcelona’s defensive
problems and fragility when in the lead are far from solved. 

Leganes and Levante, who sit 18th and 13th respectively,
offered a relatively straight-forward route back to winning ways too for
Barcelona, who were wobbling last weekend when they followed a last-gasp win
over Segunda side Ibiza with a convincing defeat by Valencia. 

Setien, who replaced Ernesto Valverde as coach last month,
found his methods questioned and there was evidence against Levante to suggest
he may have decided to introduce his style of play more gradually. 

Barca played with more urgency and ambition, their dominance
of possession sacrificed occasionally for riskier passes forward. 

Yet Levante also pressed high and left gaps to be exploited,
despite the likes of Valencia and Granada enjoying more success against
Setien’s team by sitting deep and bursting out on the break. 

Fati has been one of the main beneficiaries of Setien’s
arrival. 

He exploded onto the scene at the start of the season but
was used increasingly rarely by Valverde, who may have been wary of burdening
the teenager with too much too soon. 

Instead, Setien has started Fati in all five of his games in
charge so far and this was the first time his faith has really been
rewarded. 

“He is a boy who is emerging and has great potential,”
Setien said. “Today he had a historic day for his goals and for helping
the team.”

Messi’s own excellent form also continues. He now has nine
goals and four assists in his last 10 league games. 

His first set-up for Fati came from the centre circle where
he played a reverse pass through three Levante players that sent clear his
teammate, who cut inside Jorge Miramon and finished. 

– Handful of opportunities –

Less than two minutes later, Fati was in again. Levante lost
the ball upfield and Gerard Pique fired straight into Messi inside the right
flank, midway inside the opposition’s half. 

He drove into the penalty area and when he finally stopped
by a cluster of Levante chasers, he slid left to Fati, who fired through the
legs of Aitor Fernandez for a second. 

Nelson Semedo crashed a shot against the crossbar and then
hopped over Tono only for Antoine Griezmann to tap wide at the front
post. 

But Levante were more dangerous in the second half and could
have taken a draw if they had been more clinical with a handful of
opportunities. 

The best of them fell to Gonzalo Melero, who blazed over,
and by the time Rochina’s shot flew through one pair of legs and in off the
hands of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, there were only two minutes remaining. 

There was time for one Levante attack and Sergio Busquets’
weak header gave Rochina another chance but he could not keep his shot
down. 

Sevilla and Real Sociedad both lost ground in the race for
Champions League qualification as Getafe beat Athletic Bilbao to climb to
third. 

Real Sociedad lost 2-1 away at struggling Leganes while
Sevilla were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Alaves. 

In between, Getafe had carved out a 2-0 victory away at
Bilbao to put them in pole position behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Jose Bordalas’ team are now ahead of Sevilla on goal
difference, while Real Sociedad are five points further back.

Getafe missed out on fourth on the final day of last season
but they continue to prove their challenge was far from a one-off. 

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