Antoine Griezmann gets celebration hug from Lionel Messi as Barcelona leave troubles behind - in pictures

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Barcelona's French forward Antoine Griezmann (R) celebrates with Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Villarreal and Barcelona at the Madrigal stadium in Villarreal on July 5, 2020. / AFP / JOSE JORDAN

Barcelona's French forward Antoine Griezmann (R) celebrates with Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Villarreal and Barcelona at the Madrigal stadium in Villarreal on July 5, 2020. / AFP / JOSE JORDAN

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Villarreal v FC Barcelona - Estadio de la Ceramica, Villarreal, Spain - July 5, 2020 Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring their third goal with Luis Suarez, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Albert Gea

Barcelona's French forward Antoine Griezmann (back L) celebrates with Barcelona's Spanish defender Jordi Alba (R) and Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Villarreal and Barcelona at the Madrigal stadium in Villarreal on July 5, 2020. / AFP / JOSE JORDAN

Antoine Griezmann (L) celebrates with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez (C). AFP

Lionel Messi keeps Villarreal's Cameroonian midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa at arm's length. AFP

Barcelona's Luis Suarez celebrates scoring the second goal. Reuters

Barcelona forward Ansu Fati (C) celebrates with defender Jordi Alba after scoring the fourth. AFP

Antoine Griezmann elebrates after his side's first goal, an own goal scored by Pau Francisco of Villarreal. Getty

VILLAREAL, SPAIN - JULY 05: Antoine Griezmann of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his sides third goal with team mates during the Liga match between Villarreal CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio de la Ceramica on July 05, 2020 in Villareal, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

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Dominic Hart

July 6, 2020

July 6, 2020

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Barcelona responded to a trying week by producing a scintillating display to thrash Villarreal 4-1 away and stay alive in La Liga title race.

The Catalans had drawn their last two matches to hand more momentum to league leaders Real Madrid but Sunday's win took them to 73 points after 34 games, four behind their arch-rivals who won 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao earlier in the day.

An own goal from Pau Torres put Barca in front in the third minute, with Villarreal's Gerard Moreno levelling in the 14th minute before the visitors restored their lead through an outstanding curling strike from Luis Suarez six minutes later.

Antoine Griezmann stretched Barca's advantage just before the break with a sublime chip, having been dropped from the starting lineup in the last two games, while 17-year-old Ansu Fati added a fourth in the second half with a low strike.

For Barca defender Gerard Pique, delivering such a slick performance was as satisfying as returning to winning ways.

“It was crucial to get the three points to stay in the hunt but the way we played was important too because that's a part of our identity so we need to keep playing like that until the end of the season," he said.

Barca's confidence was rocked by draws with Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid while the sense of instability at the club deepened amid reports captain Lionel Messi was unhappy with the state of affairs and did not want to stay beyond his contract.

There had been also been plenty of speculation surrounding coach Quique Setien after he had brought Griezmann on in added time against Atletico, a move described in the Spanish media as an act of humiliation against the World Cup-winning forward.

Griezmann was named in the lineup against a Villarreal side who had won five of their last six games and were lively from the start, helping force the opening goal as well as working tirelessly in midfield and combining well with Messi and Suarez.

He capped his performance with a sumptuous goal, receiving a back-heeled lay-off from Messi and coolly delivering a chip that skimmed off the crossbar and into the net.

Messi also produced an outstanding performance but failed to score, having one effort ruled out for offside after a thrilling team move and then hammered the bar with a late free kick.

Updated: July 6, 2020 08:32 AM

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