standard: Antoine Griezmann ended his recent scoring drought as Barcelona produced one of their best away performances of the season to beat Villarreal 4-1 on Sunday and keep their slim hopes of winning LaLiga alive.
The French forward was back in the starting line-up after starting the last two matches on the bench and being introduced for only the final seconds plus stoppage time in the 2-2 draw at home to Atletico Madrid last Tuesday.
Barca found themselves provisionally seven points behind title rivals Real Madrid after Los Blancos beat Athletic Club 1-0 in Bilbao earlier in the day and had to win this one in order to stay in the race with only four rounds remaining after this one.
Quique Setien’s side got off to an ideal start as Sergi Roberto played a ball to Jordi Alba on the left and his cutback from the byline was poked in by Villarreal’s Pau Torres from close range under pressure from Griezmann with just over three minutes on the clock.
Villarreal, in fine form since the league restarted and chasing a Champions League place themselves, could hardly get out of their half early on but levelled with their first meaningful attack as Paco Alcacer played a ball from the right to Santi Cazorla on the other side, has drive was parried by Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Gerard Moreno blasted home from the rebound.
Luis Suarez then restored Barca’s lead with a beautiful curler from the edge of the box after a fine run from Messi between two Villarreal players with 20 minutes gone.
Barca had led 2-1 in each of their last two games, but were unable to win either of those as they were pegged back to 2-2 draws by both Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid.
But they always looked like adding to their tally here and Griezmann scored his first goal since the 1-1 draw away to Napoli in February as he received a Messi back-heel on the edge of the area and lofted a lovely curler over Asenjo and into the corner to make it 3-1 shortly before the interval.
Setien’s side continued to dominate in the second half and the Barca boss substituted Suarez after an hour, sending on youngster Riqui Puig and Ivan Rakitic as Nelson Semedo also came off.
Messi later saw a strike rule out for a marginal offside after a lovely move and the Argentine hit the bar with a late free-kick, but Ansu Fati rounded off a comfortable win as he ran down the left and cut into the area to beat Ansejo with a low shot inside his near post two minutes from time.
Barca close the gap at the top back to four points with four rounds remaining, while Villarreal stay in fifth, three adrift of fourth-placed Sevilla.
Source: Published by standard