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Girona's miracle run continues to astound

La Liga's surprise package edges Atletico to maintain title charge

Updated: 2024-01-05 09:13
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Girona's Brazilian defender Yan Couto reacts during Wednesday's thrilling 4-3 victory over Atletico Madrid. AFP

BARCELONA — Shock Spanish title challenger Girona snatched a remarkable 4-3 victory over Atletico Madrid to keep pace with Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Wednesday.

After Los Blancos edged Real Mallorca 1-0 thanks to Antonio Rudiger's goal, Ivan Martin's stoppage-time strike ensured the Catalan minnow matched Carlo Ancelotti's side on 48 points from 19 matches.

Alvaro Morata hit a hat-trick for Atletico at Girona's tiny Montilivi Stadium, but it was not enough as Martin found the top corner at the death to keep Girona firmly in the hunt for the title.

Atletico, third, trails both Real and Girona by 10 points, as does champion Barcelona, fourth, who was due to visit Las Palmas on Thursday.

Valery Fernandez, Savinho and Daley Blind netted for the host in a wild first half, with Morata scoring twice for Atletico.

The Spain international completed his treble early in the second period to pull Atletico level but Martin's last-gasp heroics snatched Girona victory from a compelling clash.

"It's a historic night for us, for the city, for the province," Girona coach Michel Sanchez told Movistar.

Girona, in only its fourth season in the top flight in the club's history and promoted in 2022, could have taken the lead inside the first minute.

Artem Dovbyk fired wide at the near post, but his team did not have to wait much longer.

Valery curled home in the second minute beyond Jan Oblak with a fine strike from the edge of the area, before Morata pulled Atletico level, staying onside by a whisker.

Girona was quickly back ahead with Savinho netting after 26 minutes, turning home after Oblak parried Martin's effort.

Blind turned home the third after Aleix Garcia's cross was cleverly flicked on to the back post by Dovbyk.

Morata was heavily involved for Atletico and after netting from Rodrigo de Paul's pass, struck again — this time he was offside.

The forward completed his hattrick after the break with the aid of a slight deflection, after being sent through again by De Paul.

The game continued to flow from end-to-end before Martin decided it, scrapping for an inch of space inside the area and prodding a finish into the top corner, with Oblak only able to watch as Girona's dream grew bigger still.

Rudiger to the rescue

Mallorca battled well against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu before Rudiger grabbed victory for the host.

The defender headed home from a corner with 12 minutes remaining to settle a tight clash in which Mallorca twice hit the woodwork.

Vinicius Junior made his return from injury as Los Blancos struggled to find a way through against the stubborn visitor.

Eventually Rudiger converted from a Luka Modric corner to seal the win. "I scored last season (against Mallorca) and this year again, I'm very happy because it was an important goal and an important three points for us," said Germany international Rudiger.

Madrid coach Ancelotti was happy his team took advantage of a set piece to secure victory, just as it did against Alaves in its last game of 2023.

"We lacked some freshness and accuracy in the final third, but we won because of a well-taken set piece," Ancelotti told reporters.

"There are games like today's in which dead balls can give you an advantage — we played against a team that defended well."

Madrid has now gone 18 matches without defeat in all competitions.

With David Alaba and Eder Militao injured and Nacho Fernandez suspended, the Italian was forced to innovate, but he was able to bring back winger Vinicius into the side for the first time since Nov 11 after a hamstring injury.

Vinicius dragged wide of goal and then was thwarted by Mallorca goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic on a relatively quiet return.

Ancelotti withdrew Vinicius in the 60th minute for Brahim Diaz, who hit the post with a close-range diving header before Rudiger eventually pounced.

Madrid next visits fifth-tier Arandina in the Spanish Cup before taking on Atletico in the Spanish Super Cup.


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