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La Liga Pics: Barca outclass Villarreal; Espanyol set for drop

July 06, 2020 09:30 IST
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Images from La Liga matches played on Monday.

Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann celebrates with Lionel Messi after scoring the third goal against Villarreal CF at Estadio de la Ceramica in Villareal, Spain.

IMAGE: Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann celebrates with Lionel Messi after scoring the third goal against Villarreal CF at Estadio de la Ceramica in Villareal, Spain. Photograph: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona responded to a trying week by producing a scintillating display to thrash Villarreal 4-1 away on Sunday and stay alive in the 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 on the rebound in the 14th 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.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi is challenged by Villarreal's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa

IMAGE: Barcelona's Lionel Messi is challenged by Villarreal's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. Photograph: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

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 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 was lively from the kick off, helping force the opening goal as well as working tirelessly in midfield and combining well with Messi and Suarez.

He adorned 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 as the Argentine had one effort ruled out for offside after a thrilling team move and then hammered the bar with a late free kick.

Pique reacted to Messi's goal being disallowed by appearing to make a puppet gesture after Real Madrid recently benefitted from VAR decisions but the defender said he meant nothing by it, adding that he had made the gesture due to a rush of adrenaline.

Espanyol all but relegated from La Liga after defeat by Leganes

CD Leganes' Kevin Rodrigues (right) competes for the ball with RCD Espanyol's Javi Lopez

IMAGE: CD Leganes' Kevin Rodrigues (right) competes for the ball with RCD Espanyol's Javi Lopez. Photograph: Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Bottom-placed Espanyol were left on the brink of being relegated from La Liga for the first time in 27 years after they were beaten 1-0 at home by fellow strugglers Leganes on Sunday.

Jonathan Silva struck the only goal early in the second half, controlling a long ball and entering the box unmarked to lash past Espanyol keeper Diego Lopez.

The Catalans had substitute Jonathan Calleri sent off in the 88th minute for two successive bookings, for a foul and then for arguing with the referee, although striker Raul de Tomas missed a glorious chance to level moments later when his effort flew over the bar.

Espanyol, who have been in the top-flight since winning promotion in 1994, are on 24 points after 34 games. They are 11 points adrift of the safety zone and their fate could be sealed on Monday if 17th-placed Eibar win at Sevilla.

Should they survive that test, they will need to beat champions Barcelona on Wednesday to avoid relegation.

Leganes stayed 19th but moved on to 28 points, seven from getting out of the drop-zone.

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IPL 2020

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