Girona stun champions Barca to take Liga lead

Girona stun champions Barca to take Liga lead

© AFP 2022
December 10, 2023 at 10:17 PM
Girona's Valery Fernandez celebrates after scoring his team's third goal at Barcelona in La Liga
Girona's Valery Fernandez celebrates after scoring his team's third goal at Barcelona in La Liga. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP
Source: AFP

Shock Spanish title contenders Girona earned an historic 4-2 win over rivals Barcelona on Sunday to move top of La Liga.

Michel's side beat their Catalan rivals for the first time ever in the top flight in a pulsating battle to rise two points above Real Madrid, second, after their 1-1 draw at Real Betis on Saturday.

Champions Barcelona are fourth after Atletico Madrid, third, beat Almeria earlier on, and Xavi's side trail Girona by seven points.

Artem Dovbyk sent Girona ahead and after Robert Lewandowski pulled Barcelona level, Miguel Gutierrez slammed home again for the visitors.

Valery Fernandez extended Girona's lead with 10 minutes remaining, before Ilkay Gundogan netted to set up a frantic finale.

Veteran striker Cristhian Stuani struck from close range in stoppage time to wrap up a stunning victory which reaffirms the minnows' title dream.

Girona, part-owned by the City Football Group, were without injured key midfielder Yangel Herrera, whom they signed from Manchester City, but did not let it set them back.

In La Liga for only the fourth season in their history, they played without any fear of their more illustrious neighbours and took the lead early on as the game see-sawed deliciously from end to end.

The visitors split the 27-time champions open with a lethal counter-attack, with Ukrainian winger Viktor Tsygankov feeding his compatriot Dovbyk to slam home in the 12th minute.

Unperturbed, Barcelona levelled quickly through Lewandowski, with the 35-year-old heading home Raphinha's corner to end a run of three matches without a goal.

Barcelona goalkeeper Inaki Pena tipped away Gutierrez's shot across goal, while Paulo Gazzaniga denied Joao Cancelo at the other end from close range.

The gloves were off, the mask too -- Barca defender Ronald Araujo, who suffered a facial fracture in their win over Atletico Madrid last weekend tossed his protective shield away, hoping for better focus in the intense battle.

However moments later, Girona struck again.

Former Real Madrid left-back Gutierrez, no stranger to an adventure upfield, drove into the box and cracked an early strike into the near top corner.

Barcelona tried to force their way back in, with Gazzaniga saving Frenkie de Jong's low effort and Raphinha sending a free-kick over the bar, much to Lewandowski's chagrin.

Valery seemed to end Barca hopes when Stuani headed the ball into his path, with the Spanish forward beating Jules Kounde with ease and firing home.

Fermin Lopez sent an acrobatic effort off-target before Gundogan turned well in the box and lashed past Gazzaniga to give the hosts a chance to snatch a draw.

However, Stuani bundled home at the death to complete a sensational night for Girona, with several of their players leaping the advertising hoardings and running towards their fans in celebration.

Michel said beforehand that a win would send his team into a new dimension and there can be little doubt now they are genuine title contenders this season.

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© AFP 2022 photo
© AFP 2022