ABUJA, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA) – Title-chasing Girona went top of La Liga as they produced an inch-perfect performance to record their first ever win over Barcelona.
The White and Reds beat the Culers 4-2 in a top of the table thriller at the home of the LaLiga giants, and shutting the home crowd with their amazing display.
Needing an unlikely victory to overtake Real Madrid and take advantage of Los Blancos uncharacteristically dropping points to Real Betis a day earlier, Miguel Sanchez’s side, who find themselves in the most improbable of title charges, showed their true mettle as they subdued the expectant home support to a chorus of furious whistles.
In an end-to-end encounter fully worthy of its pre-match hype, it was Girona who opened the scoring, with Artem Dovbyk, the Ukrainian striker, sweeping home on 12 minutes after Viktor Tsygankov, his compatriot, had been released down the right flank.
Robert Lewandowski powered home a header six minutes later to level for Barca, who were under the cosh for large periods of the first half, with Girona left wing-back Miguel Gutierrez proving a thorn in the side of the hosts, who couldn’t pick up his constant dips into midfield to create numerical overloads.
Paulo Gazzaniga, the visiting goalkeeper, stayed strong at his near post to deny Joao Cancelo just after the half-hour, and Gutierrez had Inaki Pena in the Barcelona goal scrambling with an effort just wide of the far post on 38 minutes.
A minute later, Gutierrez had his goal, driving into the open grass in the left half-space, and his arrowed finish swerved away from Pena at the last to nestle inside the near post to put Girona back in charge at the break.
Barca upped the tempo after the interval as Xavi cut a frustrated figure in the home technical area, and speculative efforts from long-range from Ilkay Gundogan and Frenkie de Jong suggested there was an element of desperation from the Blaugrana as they streaked forward with greater urgency.
A curling effort from Gundogan narrowly missed the far corner, and Ferran Torres’ introduction down the left flank added more thrust and guile to Barca’s attacks, but their profligacy would prove their ultimate downfall, as two Girona substitutes linked up to kill the game off.
A long ball was pumped forwards towards Cristian Stuani, the former Middlesbrough striker, and the Uruguayan flicked it on excellently, for Valery to hare after. The right wing-back shrugged off the despondent Cancelo before nutmegging Jules Kounde, and he slotted coolly beyond the onrushing Pena to send his side back to the summit.
Gundogan characteristically burst into the box in injury time as he swivelled and struck into the far corner to set up a grand-stand finish, but Girona weren’t done themselves, as Stuani turned scorer, delivering one final knockout blow as Savinho exposed the open space left behind by the home defence, standing it up for Stuani to nod home the fourth.