Barcelona’s teenage star Ansu Fati set another scoring record on Sunday when he became the youngest player to get two goals in a Spanish league game.
Fati struck from a pair of passes by Lionel Messi to help Barcelona beat Levante 2-1, keeping the defending champion within three points of leader Real Madrid.
Fati got his record brace at the age of 17 years, 94 days. That beat the previous mark established by then Malaga striker Juan Miguel Jiménez in 2010 at 17 years, 115 days.
“I have watched (Messi) for many years and to play next to him is a dream come true,” Fati said. “I have to thank my teammates and my coach. My teammates have made it easy since the first day I came into the changing room.”
The forward from Guinea-Bissau’s latest scoring milestone comes after he has smashed several scoring records this season.
Fati became the youngest player to score for Barcelona in the league at the age of 16 years, 304 days, in a 2-2 draw at Osasuna on Aug. 31. Two weeks later he became the youngest player to score at Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium in a 5-2 rout of Valencia. On Dec. 10, he became the youngest player to score in a Champions League match in a 2-1 win at Inter Milan.
On Sunday, Fati opened the scoring for hosts Barcelona in the 30th minute after Messi drifted back into the midfield circle and placed a perfectly weighted pass to connect with a run behind the defence. Fati did the rest by fending off Jorge Miramón before slotting a right-footed shot between the legs of goalkeeper Aítor Fernández.
A minute later the teenager switched to his left foot to fire in a second goal after Messi found him on the left side of the box.
They were Fati's fourth and fifth goals of the season. He has taken a place in Barcelona's starting lineup with Luis Suarez unavailable after right knee surgery.
Barcelona had reportedly tried to sign Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno last month but if Fati keeps up his scoring contributions that might not bother the club too much.
“(Fati) is having a breakout season and has great potential,” Barcelona coach Quique Setien said. “Today he made history with two goals but he also helped the team in many other ways. He has a very promising future.”
Ruben Rochina got one back for Levante in stoppage time after the visitors had threatened several times in the second half.
What looked like a one-sided encounter turned into a competitive match after halftime.
Messi revelled in the high defensive line that Levante tried to use to pressure the hosts. After assisting Fati on both his goals, Messi found right back Nelson Semedo with space to romp before smashing a shot off the crossbar.
But Levante, which beat Barcelona 3-1 at home in November, went on the attack in the second half.
Rochina fired high after an initial save of teammate José Morales’s shot by Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the 53rd. Ter Stegen then palmed a strike by substitute Hernani Santos over the bar in the 67th. Rochina also had a chance to score a last-gasp equalizer.
“The team competed well in a very difficult match,” Rochina said. “In the second half we had our opportunities. They did too. But it is a pity we couldn’t take away something positive.”
Levante lost Nikola Vukcevic to injury in the 80th when he was taken off on a stretcher.
While the win will help Setién settle in after a tough start replacing Ernesto Valverde, the second half showed the coach still has work to do to shore up Barcelona's defence.
“It is worrying when you conceded so many chances,” Setién said. “But we generated many chances as well and for me that is more important. The game could have ended 8-2 or 8-3.”
Getafe won 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao to rise to third place, moving ahead of Sevilla which drew 1-1 at home with Alaves.
Damián Suárez opened the scoring for Getafe in the 36th minute when the right back showed the skills of a forward by working two quick passing combinations with teammates before dribbling by the last defender and scoring.
Striker Jaime Mata doubled the lead five minutes after halftime by converting a penalty after a handball in the box by Bilbao defender Íñigo Lekue.
Some Sevilla fans jeered their team after a poor performance at home when it could barely threaten Alavés.
The draw came three days after Sevilla was eliminated from the Copa del Rey´s round of 16 by a 3-1 loss at second-division Mirandés.
Lucas Ocampos salvaged a point for Sevilla in the 77th after he converted a penalty kick following Rubén Duarte’s handball. Alavés had gone ahead in the 70th through Joselu Mato.
Sevilla was left level on points with Getafe but in fourth place thanks to goal difference.
Paco Alcacer had an ideal debut for new club Villarreal, scoring the opening goal and earning a penalty in a 3-1 win over Osasuna.
Villarreal acquired Alcacer from Borussia Dortmund on Thursday in a deal reportedly worth 23 million euros ($25.5 million), making him the club's most expensive transfer.
Leganes substitute Óscar Rodríguez scored from a free-kick deep in stoppage time to snatch a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad and move the club closer to escaping the drop zone.
Real Betis drew 1-1 at Eibar.