Girona 0 - 3 Barcelona: match report
Crisis, what crisis? With six wins from their opening six matches, Barcelona are four points clear at the top of LaLiga after a comfortable 0-3 victory at Girona.
Ernesto Valverde’s side continued their emphatic start to the season in the first league meeting between these Catalan neighbours. Two own goals, from Aday Benítez and Gorka Iraizoz, placed Barcelona in a strong position. Luis Suárez rounded off the victory with his second goal of the season.
The Estadi Montilivi may only hold 13,500, but it was a raucous atmosphere as the two teams walked out for this new-look Catalan derby. Girona coach Pablo Machín said before the match that they could have sold out the stadium twice over. His opposite number, Ernesto Valverde, rested Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets, with Rakitic occupying the holding role in midfield and Aleix Vidal deployed on the right-wing.
Vidal made the first foray forward, drawing a save from Gorka Iraizoz after four minutes. Yet a Girona side sprinkled with Manchester City loanees following the club’s incorporation in to the same ownership structure were able to compete. Douglas Soares, a dynamic presence in midfield, forced Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in to a fine one-handed save from the edge of the box. The Barça ‘keeper was straight back up to prevent Michael Olunga thrashing home the rebound at the near post.
A generous slice of luck gifted Barcelona the lead. Lionel Messi floated a corner all the way across to the far side of the box, where Jordi Alba was waiting to greet the ball on the volley. His shot was poorly-directed, but that did not matter as it ricocheted off Aday’s shin and beyond Iraizoz.
The former Athletic Club ‘keeper kept the home side in the match until half time, with smart saves to deny Jordi Alba and a Messi free-kick.
But cruelly, it was the 36-year-old who turned the ball in to his own net in the fledgling stages of the second half. Aleix Vidal burst in to the box and proceeded to the byline before neatly back-heeling the ball to the near post. Luis Suárez feigned to shoot, dummied, and Iraizoz was helpless as the ball bounced off him and over the line.
Barcelona dropped in to a lower gear and saw out the match. It was far from a vintage performance in the second half; Barça were content to cede possession to Girona, and hurt them on the counter-attack. But then teams must evolve, and so must our concept of ‘vintage’. This Barcelona side does not have the aesthetic characteristics that Pep Guardiola polished, but Ernesto Valverde has imbued a certain grit, and game-management that were lacking last season under Luis Enrique.
Luis Suárez added gloss to the result in the 69th minute. With Girona committing swathes of players forward, there was space for Sergi Roberto to threat the Uruguayan, who gave Iraizoz the eyes and slotted the ball in at the near post. It was Suárez’ 87th goal on his 100th league appearance for Barcelona, a remarkable record.
The win establishes a seven-point advantage over reigning champions Real Madrid, and Barcelona’s march shows little sign of slowing.
Girona 0 - 3 Barcelona: as it happened
90'+3' Full time.
90'+3' Messi tries a sneaky through ball to Dennis Suárez, featuring a nutmeg on Ramalho, but it runs through to the 'keeper.
90'+1' The Argentine gets his free-kick over the wall, but can't get it under the bar. Goal kick.
90'+1' Messi stands over a free-kick 20 yards out after he was fouled on the edge of the box, The referee tried to play advantage, but brought play back when Suárez could not find a breakthrough.
90' Three minutes of added time.
90' Portu faces up against Jordi Alba, skips inside and out, and delivers a cross that Ter Stegen reads and catches.
89' The Girona fans have all got their torches out, concert-encore style, as Kayode heads Ramalho's cross over the bar.
88' Pere Pons has a decent chance on the left side of the box, but he gets right under the ball and scoops it in to the stand behind the goal.
87' Oooft, chance for Girona. Portu hurls himself in the air to meet a deep cross with a bicycle kick. He directs the ball back across goal, where Mojica can't turn it in to the path of a team-mate.
86' Sergi Roberto has really been in the wars as a result of defending his far post. This time, Kayode clatters in to him after he had put the ball behind for a corner.
82' Marlos Moreno and Sergio Busquets come together on the edge of the Barcelona box. The Colombian appeals for a free-kick, but he is the one booked, curiously. The Girona fans voice their displeasure.
80' Double change for Barcelona. Iniesta and Aleix Vidal trot off, with André Gomes and Dennis Suárez coming on.
79' Marlos Moreno replaces fellow Manchester City man Pablo Maffeo.
79' Ter Stegen punches the ball out to Douglas Soares on the edge of the box, whose shot is deflected behind for another corner. It comes to nothing.
78' Mojica flashes a stepover as he enters the box on the left, and then tries to get a shot away. Mascherano slides in to deflect the ball behind.
77' Iraizoz comes storming out of his box to boot Messi's pass for Vidal high in to the stands. 'Av it.
75' Kayode is working hard up front, but he doesn't look like a natural target man. Girona need someone who can hold the ball and bring others in to play. Kayode is more suited to running in behind.
72' The ball just will not fall for Girona. Juanpe meets Aleix García's corner and glances it on to Portu at the far post. He lets the ball run across his body, but in doing so make the angle to shoot too acute. The ball slams in to the side netting.
69' Just before that goal, Johan Mojica had replaced Aday for Girona.
69' GOL GOL GOL! Suárez makes it three with a clinical finish. Girona's defence was wide open, allowing Sergi Roberto to find the Uruguayan in the left channel. He gives Iraizoz the eyes, shapes to shoot to the far post, and whips the ball in at the near post.
67' Rakitic takes immediate advantage of the reassuring, woolly-jumper-on-a-winter-night presence of Sergio Busquets to burst forward. Iraizoz rushes out to take claim the through ball intended for the Croatian just inside the box.
66' Paulinho makes way for Busquets, a move that will presumably see Rakitic given more license to attack. The Brazilian has been busy, if unspectacular.
64' Busquets is preparing himself on the touchline.
63' This is by no means a classic performance from Barcelona. They're conceding a lot of possession to Girona and looking to play on the break.
60' Pablo Machín makes a change in attack. Larry Kayode replaces Michael Olunga.
59' Girona are beginning to make good use of the wing-backs. Maffeo crosses towards Aday at the far post, but Sergio Roberto gets there first. His reward is a heavy shove in the back from Aday who, to be fari, had eyes for the ball.
57' Girona are enjoying a rare spell of possession. Barcelona fail to full clear a corner, and the ball is worked out to Aday on the left. He jinks inside and crosses to the far post, but it evades everyone and results in a goal kick.
55' Olunga climbs high at the far post and nods the ball down. Ter Stegen makes himself big and blocks it on the line. Olunga struggled to generate enough power there.
52' Portu is penalised for a foul on Alba, and waves his tattoed arms in an animated fashion. The referee is having none of it.
50' Douglas Soares is turning in an impressive box-to-box performance in the centre of midfield. He times his run in to the area perfectly to meet Maffeo's cross, but his header sails just over and kisses the roof of the net on its way behind.
48' GOOOOOOL! Barcelona double their lead! This time Iraizoz turns it in to his own net. There wasn't much the 'keeper could do about it, as Suárez jumped out of the way of Aleix Vidal's back-heeled cross at point-black range.
47' Gorka Iraizoz may be 36, but he came off his line like a whippet to steal the ball from Messi's toe.
46' Luis Suárez rolls the second half in to action.
The teams are mazing their way through the innards of Montilivi and up on to the pitch for the second half.
Jordi Alba has had more shots (2) than any of his Barcelona team-mates. One of those was woefully off target, but it didn't matter as it took a big ol' deflection off Aday's shin and squirmed over the line.
45'+1' Half time.
45' Sergi Roberto tries to loft the ball forward to meet Paulinho's run towards the penalty spot. The right-back gets a little too much behind it, and the ball carries through in to the 'keeper's arms.
44' Cristian Portu tries to chip the ball in to the box from the right side of the box, but Umtiti stands tall and takes it squarely in the face.
42' Aday tracks back effectively to stop Sergi Roberto bombing foreward, if by 'effectively' you mean 'with a rugby tackle'. The man with an own goal to his name now goes in to the book.
41' The home crowd draws a collective gasp as Michael Olunga rises to meet a deep cross from the left... but he directs his header over the bar.
36' Paulinho wins the ball in midfield, and it falls to Ivan Rakitic to stride forward and hit a swerving shot towards the near post. It was probably skimming wide, but Iraizoz turns it around the post just in case. The first corner goes behind off a Girona defender, and Paulinho glances the second one wide. The Brazilian should have got a better contact.
34' Towering save from Gorka Iraizoz. After Suárez is fouled mid-way through the Girona half, a quick free-kick finds the run of Jordi Alba on the left. He brings the ball down, but can't find a way past the veteran stopper.
31' 68% possession for Barcelona so far. The visitors are having particular joy through the energetic pair of Sergi Roberto and Aleix Vidal on the right flank.
27' Aday appears rather peeved by his own goal. He steams through the back of Paulinho, conceding a needless free-kick in the centre of the park.
25' Messi is dropping deep to orchestrate play, with Paulinho then often advancing beyond him. Running away from goal, Messi tries an over-the-shoulder chip through to Jordi Alba, but it runs out for a goal kick.
23' Maffeo is the first player to have his name scribbled down in Sánchez Martínez' little book. His crime was to tussle too much with Messi's shirt.
22' Douglas Soares almost bundles his way through the middle of the Barça defence, but Sergi Roberto is alert to the danger, and nips in to play the ball back to Ter Stegen.
21' As things stand, Barcelona's lead at the summit of LaLiga will extend to four points over Atlético. Real Madrid will be seven points behind.
17' GOL GOL GOL! Messi floats a corner to the far side of the box for Jordi Alba to strike on the volley, Paul Scholes-style. The left-back arrows the ball across the penalty box, and it richochets off Aday and in to the corner.
17' Paulinho is fouled 30 yards out, granting Messi the chance to shoot. He forces Iraizoz to parry behind for a corner.
15' Luis Suárez bursts in to the box and shimmies past the 'keeper. His touch takes him to the byline, and he is forced to check back and look for options, With the 'keeper now blocking a pass across goal, the Uruguayan is forced to cut the ball back... to a Girona shirt.
12' Double chance for Girona, which started when Rakitic failed to win the ball in a 50:50 challenge on the half-way line. Douglas Soares shoots low, forcing Ter Stegen in to a snappy save. The 'keeper then gets up to prevent Olunga smashing in the rebound at the near post. Fine goalkeeping from the German.
10' Girona have a corner after Aleix García's left-foot shot skewered behind off Umtiti's leg. A Barça head clears the delivery, but Girona retain possession in the attacking third.
10' Sergi Roberto gets totally outmuscled by Olunga in the right-back position, and appears lucky to avoid conceding a foul in his attempt to regain possession.
8' Iniesta plays a smart ball through to Jordi Alba, but the left-back had started his run a touch early, and the linesman raises his flag to signal offside.
7' Leo Messi is a whisker away from latching on to a long ball. The Argentine made a clever diagonal run to create the chance, but couldn't stop the ball from bouncing through to Iraizoz.
6' In terms of personnel and tactics for Barcelona, Ivan Rakitic has slotted in to Sergio Busquets' pivot role, with Paulinho and Iniesta providing grunt and guile respectively on either side of him.
4' Aleix Vidal has the first chance of the match, drawing Gorka Iraizoz in to a smart save from an acute angle. It was a very tidy ball from Mascherano through to Vidal on the right side of the box.
3' Mascherano is now down on the turf and grimacing, and justifiably so. Michael Olunga arrived late and planted his foot right on the Argentine's ankle. He's okay to continue, but that will sting.
2' Javier Mascherano clips a ball towards Luis Suárez in the box, but Juanpe, playing in the centre of Girona's defensive '3', nods it clear.
1' We're underway in Catalonia! Girona kick the match off and make an unsuccessful dash up the right wing through Pablo Maffeo.
Sánchez Martínez is the referee this evening. The man from Murcia has been a Primera División referee since 2015.
Here come the teams! There's a crackling atmosphere as the team go through the handshake pleasantries. The crowd is bathed with red-and-white flags.
Aleix García and Pablo Maffeo are the two Manchester City loanees in the Girona line-up.
Estadi Montilivi holds 13,500, and it's packed to the rafters. Girona boss Pablo Machín said they could have filled it twice over.
With Sergio Busquets being rested, Lionel Messi and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen will become the only Barcelona players to start in each of Barcelona's eight competetive matches this season.
This may be Barcelona's first LaLiga visit to Montilivi, but Leo Messi has already tasted defeat in Girona. The Argentine lost with Barcelona B against Girona in March 2004.
Barcelona have won their first five LaLiga matches this season, the first time they have achieved such a feat since the 2013-14 season with Tata Martino at the helm.
Girona have failed to score in each of their three last matches. So while that defensive set-up keeps them secure at the back, they struggle to make an attacking impact.
Marc Muniesa is out for Girona this evening. The centre-half, on loan from Premier League outfit Stoke City, will be a big loss for the LaLiga new-boys, and his absence may prevent Pablo Machín from fielding a three-man defence.
Barcelona's team selection begs the questions of who will start in the Busquets role, if anyone. Paulinho, Rakitic?
Girona vs Barcelona: LaLiga match preview
Montilivi is the setting for a historic Catalan derby on Saturday evening as LaLiga new boys Girona host Barcelona in the two clubs' first ever league encounter.
Girona have made a respectable start to their maiden season in the Spanish top flight, picking up five points from five games so far to find themselves in 15th.
An entertaining opening-day draw with Atlético Madrid was followed by a win over Málaga, and though defeats to Athletic Club and Sevilla followed, they bounced back to earn a creditable point at Leganés in midweek.
And Pablo Machín's men would still be unbeaten on home turf had Alex Granell not missed a last-gasp penalty in that 1-0 reverse against Sevilla.
Girona host a side who currently sit top of the league with a 100% record, but coach Machín was not about to be downhearted by his opponents' early-season run of results.
"There's never a good time to [try to] beat Barça," Machín told his pre-match press conference on Friday, "[but] we'll try to make that time tomorrow."
Few would have predicted it after August's 5-1 aggregate Spanish Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid, but the leaders go into week 6 a full seven points ahead of the champions.
Ernesto Valverde's side have posted five wins out of five in LaLiga, plus a 3-0 victory over Juventus in their Champions League opener, with Leo Messi starting the campaign in sparkling scoring form.
Indeed, the Argentine hit four in the midweek 6-1 thumping of Eibar to take his league tally to nine already - more than 15 LaLiga teams have in total, and as many as Real have managed.
And although this is the sides' first LaLiga meeting, Messi has previous experience of netting against Girona, having been on target in a Barça B clash with the Blanquivermell way back in 2004.
As Barça look to make it six from six in Primera, however, Valverde was wary of the galvanising effect that the occasion could have on the hosts.
"We have to be careful with the festive air that surrounds this derby," he said on Friday. "They will be looking to enjoy the game and at the same time give everything, so we will have to be on our toes."
Girona vs Barcelona live stream online: potential line-ups
Girona XI: Iraizoz; Bernardo, Alcalá, Juanpe; Maffeo, Granell, Pons, Benítez; Portu, García; Stuani
Head coach: Pablo Machín
Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Mascherano, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Vidal, Messi, Suárez
Head coach: Ernesto Valverde
Girona vs Barcelona live stream online: betting
As expected, Barcelona are heavily backed by the bookies to take the three points at Montilivi, with a win for the visitors valued at just €1.25 per euro bet. Girona, meanwhile, are priced back at €12 per euro placed to claim a famous victory.
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