Barcelona will finish the weekend in fourth place in the La Liga table and are now seven points off the top thanks to a painful 4-2 loss against Girona at the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Sunday night. A wildly entertaining game with loads of chances for both sides in the first hour was eventually won by a Girona side that dominated the final 30 minutes and made a statement about their title credentials as they convincingly won a Catalan derby on the road and will finish Matchday 16 in sole possession of first place and two points ahead of second.
The opening 45 minutes were just as wild and entertaining as one could hope for, with both teams playing really well with the ball and taking big risks in possession that left them very vulnerable at the back, and both sides created chance after chance after chance for the entire half. There were very few stoppages, and the game was played at a truly insane pace.
Barça started as the better side and could have easily taken the lead within the first 10 minutes, but one bad pass in midfield allowed Girona to counter-attack and Viktor Tsigankov gave Artem Dovbyk an easy tap-in to put the visitors in front. The Blaugrana answered quickly after a great corner taken by Raphinha found Robert Lewandowski in the box and the striker headed home the equalizer.
The following 20 minutes were truly crazy, with both teams trading punches and allowing each other huge chances. Both sets of goalkeepers and center-backs had to make last-ditch interventions time and time again, and it was truly remarkable that no other goals were scored by either side as we approached halftime.
But with five minutes to go before the break, a huge moment in the match: after a wonderful passing sequence through the middle by Girona, the ball found Miguel Gutiérrez in great position and the left-back fired a beautiful strike into the top corner to give the visitors their second lead on the night.
Barça almost equalized again but Paulo Gazzaniga made another big save against Lewandowski, and the halftime whistle came to end 45 of the most entertaining minutes in any football match around Europe this season. Could Barça pull off a comeback? Would Girona continue to attack or try to hold on to their lead? Would the second half be just as wild as the first?
It was only natural that the players on both sides wouldn’t have been able to keep up the same pace from the first half, so the game slowed down a bit in the opening minutes of the period.
Barça had more of the ball while Girona tried to defend deeper to protect their lead in the first 15-20 minutes before opening up again, and their plan worked as Barça never created a true chance while the visitors remained a threat on the counter.
Slowly but surely Girona began taking some risks again, sending bodies forward and finding spaces inside the Blaugrana defensie with good passing and movement. They were the better team as we reached the final 20 minutes, even with Xavi Hernández making a triple change that saw Ferran Torres, Lamine Yamal and Alejandro Balde come on but not have any real impact in the game.
And with 10 minutes to go came the knockout blow: Cristhian Stuani won the initial header after a long ball from Gazzaniga, and Valery Fernández got to the ball before Jules Kounde and passed it into the bottom corner to double Girona’s lead and essentially seal the deal.
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.
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’)