Girona 2-1 Real Madrid LaLiga Santander 2017: as it happened, goals, match report
A second-half flurry from Christian Stuani and Portu condemned Real Madrid to an historic defeat on their first competitive visit to Montilivi. Isco opened the scoring in the first half to establish a lead for Zinedine Zidane’s side, but Girona’s intensity and tactical clarity proved too much for the visitors as the two strikers scored a goal each to secure three points.
Real Madrid are now eight points behind pace-setters Barcelona after 10 matches. Los Blancos have never recovered from an eight-point deficit to win LaLiga.
Zidane made sweeping changes to the team that eased past Fuenlabrada in the Copa del Rey, with Kiko Casilla and Achraf the only players to retain their places. The cavalry returned elsewhere on the pitch. A trip to Wembley looms on Wednesday to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League, yet the 45-year-old named his strongest possible line-up.
Pablo Machín welcomed back leading-scorer Christian Stuani from suspension for a match played in the context of a turbulent political atmosphere. Separatist leaders in Catalonia voted to declare independence from Spain this week, prompting the country’s central government to activate emergency powers to remove the members of Catalonia’s regional government.
Despite that backdrop, the match kicked off in a cordial atmosphere, with Real Madrid supporters scattered among the home crowd.
Girona began at a frenetic pace, with a 3-5-2 formation that placed emphasis on pressing high up the pitch. After 11 minutes, their brave tactics almost bore fruit, as Casilla misjudged Pablo Maffeo’s cross from the right. The ‘keeper, playing in the absence of Keylor Navas, breathed a sigh of relief as the ball evaded Stuani and bounced off the post.
Real Madrid pounced immediately. 15 seconds later the ball was in the net. Karim Benzema charged through the centre of the pitch and laid the ball out to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal international forced the home goalkeeper in to a smart save, but Isco gobbled up the rebound to put the visitors ahead.
Machín’s side remained faithful in their approach, and came within millimeters of levelling the score after 35 minutes when Portu’s glancing header hit the inside of the post and bounced back across the goal line.
The rub of the green was not in Girona’s favour in the first half, and nor did it favour Raphael Varane. Nacho replaced the French defender at the break after he picked up a hamstring injury in an excellent first-half display.
Girona’s luck soon changed. Christian Stuani drew the home side level after 54 minutes, tucking the ball in at the near post after Casemiro, Modric, Nacho, and Sergio Ramos had all failed to clear the ball. It was richly deserved.
The second goal followed four minutes later. Casilla could only parry Stuani’s shot in to the path of Pablo Maffeo. The Manchester City-loanee took a touch and rifled the ball to the far post, where Portu was lurking, primed to flick the ball in to the corner. The Real Madrid defence appealed for offside, but the linesman’s flag remained by his side as players clad in red and white celebrated wildly.
Zidane matched Girona’s tactical system with 25 minutes remaining, sending on Marco Asensio and Lucas Vázquez to play as wing-back, with Casemiro dropping back to form three-man defence alongside Nacho and Sergio Ramos. That move was a tacit acknowledgment that he had been out-thought by Pablo Machín.
The tactics changed, but the impotence and frustration remained. Madrid could not break through a disciplined and gallant defence. The Montilivi crowd rose collectively as the match entered additional time. It is the club’s first season in the top flight of Spanish football. Promotion to LaLiga was the culmination of an entire history. To beat Real Madrid on home turf is more than they could have hoped for.