A2-1 win at the Bernabéu provided a measure of revenge for their two recent King’s Cup defeats at the hands of the Merengues. THE CLUB SHOULD LOOK BACK ON THIS SECOND SEASON IN THE TOP FLIGHT AS A SUCCESS
In the 12 league games since our last column, Girona have won three – all away from home, at Real Madrid (2-1), Rayo (2-0) and Leganés (2-0), drawn four – at home to Getafe and Alavés (both 1-1) and Real Sociedad (0-0) and away at Levante (2-2), and lost five – at home to Barça (2-0), Huesca (2-0) and Valencia (3-2) and away at Betis (3-2) and Eibar (3-0). Although that sounds fairly steady, those three wins have come in the last five games and brought some welcome respite from a run of 10 league games without a win from early December to mid February, including four straight defeats at the start of the year. Remarkably, that run was brought to an end by a 2-1 win at the Bernabéu against a Real Madrid that had been on a five-game winning streak in the league, Stuani and Portu nabbing the goals and Sergio Ramos being sent off in the last minute, providing a measure of revenge for their two recent King’s Cup defeats at the hands of the Merengues.
Those 12 league games since mid-December have brought 14 goals for and 18 against, the 13 points gained leaving Girona in 12th place in the league, with the same points total as Espanyol – 34 – and the spectre of relegation no longer a haunting possibility with 10 games of the season remaining and teams like Celta, Rayo and Huesca barely able to pick up a point between them.
As for the Cup, following an impressive run that saw them dispose of Alavés (4-3 on aggregate) and Atlético Madrid (4-4 on aggregate, Girona through on away goals), a 7-3 aggregate mauling at the hands of Real Madrid put an end to any hopes of silverware this season, and that despite being well positioned at 2-2 with 25 minutes to go in the first leg at the Bernabéu.
For a more in-depth analysis of the club’s second season in the top flight, we can turn to Girona season ticket holder and local resident Darren Smith: “After a good run in the Copa del Rey (furthest in their history) reality hit home when a 10-game-without-a-win run reached a season nadir with a woeful defeat at home to relegation certs Huesca. Murmurs about the coach, sporting director (the last couple of transfer windows have been underwhelming) and a lack of support from Manchester City surfaced for the first time. A couple of players were even singled out for criticism (Douglas Luiz and Doumba), which is unheard of in my time supporting Girona. Luckily, a stunning come back from behind that gave them victory at Real Madrid (possibly the best result in Girona’s history) quashed the unrest pretty quickly, followed up by a comfortable win at Rayo. At the same time, Eusebio seems to have found his own voice. Instead of copying the Machín template that the players were comfortable with but were less effective at (a lack of attacking wing backs being a serious drawback), he has introduced his own template, a back four with two solid defensive-minded full backs, one up front, three across the midfield and the trusty duo of Stuani (still prolific and the focal point of all attacks) and Portu (still fast and clever). With the team sitting comfortably in mid-table, attendances growing, ground developments continuing and star names still not tempted away (Stuani, now leading goalscorer in Girona’s history, has signed a new contract), the club should look back on this second season in the top flight, often an awkward period for newcomers, as a success. There are signs, though, that fans are now expecting more than is perhaps realistic. There is still a bit of dislocation between the owners and support over the willingness to play in Miami, the quality of Manchester City loanees has been average and the jury is still out on Eusebio as head coach (a few bad results and not difficult to imagine calls for a return of the now free Pablo Machín). Maybe if the best results were not saved for on the road rather than at Montilivi, the fortress of last season having now become the weak link, then everyone would be happy and would enjoy the ride again.”
The rest of the season
Girona have 10 league games remaining this season, five at home and five away. If they are to better last season’s total of 51 points, which brought a very respectable 10th place finish, then they need a further 18 points from those games:
29-03-2019 Athletic Bilbao (h)
02-04-2019 Atletico Madrid (a)
06-04-2019 Espanyol (h)
14-04-2019 Villarreal (h)
21-04-2019 Celta Vigo (a)
24-04-2019 Real Valladolid (a)
28-04-2019 Sevilla (h)
05-05-2019 Getafe (a)
12-05-2019 Levante (h)
19-05-2019 Alaves (a)