BARCELONA: Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati scored twice to lead his side to a 2-1 win at home to Levante on Sunday, finding the net in a league game for the first time in more than four months and becoming the youngest player to net a La Liga double.
Fati, 17, latched on to a superb crossfield ball from Lionel Messi and fired between the legs of Levante goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez to give Barca a deserved lead on the half-hour mark.
The Guinea-Bissau-born forward promptly linked up with Messi again to double Barca’s lead two minutes later, getting some good fortune as the ball bobbled through the legs of Fernandez and into the net.
Levante, who beat Barca 3-1 at home earlier this campaign, got a consolation goal in added time through Ruben Rochina and the forward had a chance to snatch an unlikely equaliser moments later but could not keep his shot under the bar.
The victory took second-placed Barcelona to within three points of leaders Real Madrid, who beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 in the city derby on Saturday.
Elsewhere, Getafe climbed into third place after winning 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao, leapfrogging Sevilla who could only draw 1-1 at home to Alaves.
“This is all a dream, I dreamed of moments like this and I want to thank my team mates and my coach for giving me another opportunity,” Fati told reporters.
“It’s not easy to come into a team like this as a young boy but I’m very grateful for the support I’ve had. I’ve still got a lot more to come, I like playing with Messi it’s a dream to play alongside him, but I want to continue fighting for my place.”
Fati wrote himself into Barca’s history books last August by becoming the club’s youngest ever league scorer with a goal against Osasuna while still aged 16, making the most of a spate of injuries afflicting the team’s forward line.
He struck against Valencia a month later before drifting out of the team, although he made history again last December with a goal against Inter Milan that made him the youngest player to score in the Champions League.
Injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele have given the youngster another run in the team and this was his fourth start under coach Quique Setien, who pledged to give young academy players a chance when he succeeded Ernesto Valverde last month.
Fati certainly made the most of this opportunity, dovetailing superbly with Messi and showing confidence in front of goal in contrast to fellow forward Antoine Griezmann, who squandered two clear chances to score in the first half.
He was not far from scoring a hat-trick, attempting an audacious bicycle kick late in the game which fizzed narrowly wide of goal.
“He has huge potential but we have to remember he is a young lad,” said Setien.
“We have to be patient with him and give him the confidence he needs to make the most of his talent. As well as the two goals, I appreciate the work he did in defence. He put out lots of fires for us.”