GRANADA, Spain (Reuters) - Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann each scored twice as Barcelona thrashed Granada 4-0 away on Saturday to win a third consecutive La Liga game for the first time this season.
Griezmann opened the scoring in the 12th minute while Messi struck twice before the break to make it four goals in his last two matches and go top of the league's scoring charts with 11 goals.
French forward Griezmann scored a classy second goal after halftime while things got worse for Granada when Jesus Vallejo was sent off in the 78th minute for clattering into Barca substitute Martin Braithwaite.
The victory took Barca back into third place in the standings with 34 points, closing the gap with leaders Atletico Madrid to four points.
However, Atletico, whose game with Athletic Bilbao was postponed due to heavy snow in the Spanish capital, have three matches in hand.
"This is an important win, we knew we were in a difficult situation and couldn't afford to lose any more games and it's been a very good week for us, winning three games, all away from home, and while playing some very good football," said Barca coach Ronald Koeman.
"We showed that the team is growing in quality and in confidence. I'm very pleased that we scored four goals and we need to keep playing like we did today, when we only needed a few chances to score."
Barca had produced one of their best displays under Koeman in Wednesday's 3-2 win at Athletic Bilbao but have tended to struggle for consistency this campaign, in particular away from home.
But the resounding victory sealed an elusive third win in a row, beginning with a 1-0 victory away to Huesca last Sunday.
Griezmann got them off to a strong start when he stuck out his leg to prod the ball home when a deflection from Granada's Roberto Soldado fell into his path and played him onside.
The Frenchman then went on a marauding run through the middle to tee up Messi, who lashed into the top corner in the 35th minute.
The Argentine struck again shortly before halftime, arrowing low into the net from a freekick and then enjoyed a rare rest when Koeman removed him for Braithwaite midway through the second half.
Griezmann, who before the game had failed to score in the league since the end of November, showed his soaring confidence with his brilliant second goal.
He controlled a cross from Ousmane Dembele with his left foot then using his other foot to find the far bottom corner from a tight angle with his right.
"Before I could barely score one goal but right now it looks like things are going pretty well," the forward said.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)