La Liga: Antoine Griezmann Stars Against Villarreal As Barcelona Keep Title Hopes Alive

ISLAMABAD, July 6 (Online Int’l): Antoine Griezmann answered his critics in style on Sunday by scoring with a sensational chip as Barcelona thrashed Villarreal 4-1 to keep their faint La Liga title hopes alive. After the humiliation of being brought on in the 90th minute against his former club Atletico Madrid, Griezmann was back in the starting line-up at La Ceramica and repaid the faith with a stunning goal, teed up by Lionel Messi. “It was the kind of goal only great players can score,” said Barcelona coach Quique Setien. “He played a spectacular match.”

Messi also laid on a curling Luis Suarez’s hot into the top corner after Gerard Moreno cancelled out a Pau Torres own-goal that had put Barca in front. Ansu Fati then added a fourth late on.

An impressive victory for Setien’s side reduces the gap back to four points behind Real Madrid, who earlier ground out another 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames, with a Sergio Ramos penalty proving the difference.

Madrid’s resilient performance, and their third 1-0 victory in a row, offered a stark contrast to a goal-fest from Barcelona that was certainly easier on the eye but instructive on the title race too.

An end-to-end contest, full of chances for both sides, showed Messi, Suarez and Griezmann at their free-flowing best yet the defence was opened up with ease by Villarreal, who might have scored more.

Madrid’s discipline and organisation has made them firm favourites with four games remaining.

“We needed this match a while ago,” admitted Setien. “We have to keep adding points and we’ll see what happens.”

Griezmann had experienced his lowest  moment since joining Barcelona on Tuesday in the draw against Atletico but this was the perfect response. He celebrated his goal by sharing a warm embrace with Messi.

Villarreal looked a difficult opponent after winning five games out of six since the restart, a run that has put them in in touching distance of the top four. This defeat leaves them three points behind Sevilla, who play Eibar on Monday. The first half was perhaps the most entertaining in the La Liga since the restart, with four goals and chances for two or three more.

Barca were ahead within three minutes, Torres diverting Jordi Alba’s cross into his own net under pressure from Griezmann at the near post.

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