Girona came back from behind twice and scored three goals in the last 30 minutes to defeat Barcelona 4-2 at the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Sunday night, moving to the top of La Liga and leaving the hosts in fourth place, seven points adrift.
A high-octane first half
The game began at a breakneck speed, with both teams playing attractive and attacking football, but also exposing their defensive frailties. Barcelona had the first chances to score, but they paid the price for a careless mistake in midfield by Girona, who launched a swift counter-attack that ended with Viktor Tsigankov assisting Artem Dovbyk for a simple finish.
Barcelona reacted well and equalized soon after, when Raphinha delivered a precise corner for Robert Lewandowski to head in his 15th goal of the season. The rest of the half was a roller-coaster of emotions, as both sides created and wasted several clear opportunities to take the lead. The goalkeepers and defenders had to work hard to keep the score level, but they could not prevent Girona from scoring again just before halftime.
After a brilliant combination of passes, Miguel Gutiérrez found some space on the left and unleashed a stunning shot into the top corner, leaving Marc-André ter Stegen with no chance. Barcelona almost equalized again, but Paulo Gazzaniga denied Lewandowski with a great save.
Girona take control in the second half
The second half was a different story, as Girona showed more composure and confidence, while Barcelona struggled to find their rhythm and creativity. Girona defended well and looked dangerous on the break, while Barcelona failed to create any clear chances.
Girona gradually increased their pressure and control, and they were rewarded with two more goals in the final 10 minutes. First, Cristhian Stuani flicked on a long ball from Gazzaniga, and Valery Fernández beat Jules Koundé to the ball and slotted it past Ter Stegen. Then, Tsigankov scored a solo goal, dribbling past two defenders and firing a low shot into the far corner.
Barcelona scored a consolation goal in stoppage time, when Ferran Torres headed in a cross from Alejandro Balde, but it was too little, too late. Girona celebrated a historic and deserved victory, while Barcelona were left to rue a poor performance and a bad result.
A late surge by Barcelona falls short
Barça naturally sent everyone forward in a desperate attempt to get back in the game, and Ilkay Gündogan scored deep into stoppage time to give Barça some hope of a very late equalizer. They had a golden chance to do so when a perfect cross by Yamal found Lewandowski all alone to head it home, but the ball hit the Pole’s shoulder instead and Barça’s best finisher missed their best opportunity to perform a miracle.
And the hopes of a comeback were finally ended by a fourth Girona goal as Sávio’s cross found Stuani all alone at the far post and the substitute found the back of the net to seal the victory for Girona.
The final whistle came to end a painful night for Barça, who played well for an hour and created enough to score more than just one goal in the first 60 minutes. But they didn’t, their defending was abysmal, and Girona proved that they can score against anyone, anywhere.
Girona are for real, and Barça will need a miracle to win La Liga this season.
Line-ups and goals
Barcelona: Peña; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen (Balde 65’), Cancelo; Pedri (Fermín 80’), De Jong, Gündogan; Raphinha (Yamal 65’), Lewandowski, Félix (Ferran 65’)
Goals: Lewandowski (19’), Gündogan (90+2’)
Girona: Gazzaniga; Eric, López, Blind, Gutiérrez; Martín (Solis 87’), Aleix; Couto (Valery 78’), Tsigankov (Portu 78’), Sávio; Dovbyk (Stuani 73’)
Goals: Dovbyk (12’), Gutiérrez (40’), Valery (80’), Stuani (90+5’)