Real Madrid’s rebirth came to a screeching halt as a stunning second half comeback from Girona ended handed a 1-2 loss Los Blancos on Sunday afternoon at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
For the first 45 minutes, the thought that the day would end in defeat for the home side seemed unthinkable. Real were displaying the same form that they had displayed for the last month and looked primed for another three points, but a failure to find a second goal after’s Casemiro’s opener would prove fatal.
Girona took advantage of Real’s complacency and landed two big blows through a Christhian Stuani penalty and a Portu header to end their own 10-match winless streak and put Real’s hopes of a title charge into great peril. Compounding Real’s woes was a late sending off for Sergio Ramos, meaning future suspensions are in store for the Real skipper.
After the European midweek win in Amsterdam, manager Santiago Solari made six changes to his starting XI. Defenders Adrian Odriozola, Raphael Varane and Marcelo came back into the fold, as did Dani Ceballos in place of the suspended Luka Modric, while Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio started up top with Karim Benzema, meaning a rest for Vinicius.
Even with so many changes Real were still displaying their silky-smooth football and a nice solo effort from Lucas Vazquez could have easily ended with a goal, but Girona goalkeeper Bono did nicely to make the save.
There was nothing Bono could do though to stop Casemiro from opening the scoring a bit later in the half, as an inch-perfect pass from Toni Kroos was thumped into net via header by Casemiro to make it 1-0 to Real.
Girona responded nicely after the Casemiro goal. The Catalonians launched several attacks into the Real half, the best chance coming on a rifling effort from Alex Granell that missed wide. At the other end, Real were equally as dangerous and Benzema had a crack at doubling the Real lead, but Bono stood strong and blocked the Frenchman’s stinger.
Real came out strong after the re-start, with Benzema twice coming inches away from notching his side’s second of the day. Solari was keen to put the visitors to the sword, so Vinicius was called upon to replace Lucas Vazquez shortly before the hour mark.
Yet it was Girona who would start to flex their attacking muscles. Substitute Antony Lozano beat Odriozola on a header and looked set to equalise, but Real goalkeeper
Thibaut Courtois got low to make the block. Aleix Garcia could not have asked for a better chance to score, as the Courtois block fell right to him, only to incredulously miss over the crossbar.
Girona went back to the well though and another looping header at the back post ended with Stuani’s header bouncing off the post. That rebound fell for Douglas Luiz, whose shot struck the hand of Sergio Ramos and referee Cuadra Fernandez pointed to the spot. Stuani was tasked with penalty duties and calmly converted to bring Girona level 1-1.
Solari immediately went to his bench after the Girona leveller, bringing on Gareth Bale for Asensio, but that did nothing to shake Girona’s flying football from continuing and it took the post to prevent Eusebio’s men from taking the lead off a Portu rocket from the right.
The Bernabeu could only watch in stunned disbelief as to what would happen next. Again it was Girona winning the 50-50 balls in midfield and it led to a break that saw a Lozano shot from the left slapped away by Courtois right into the path of Portu, who this time was on target and squeezed his header into goal for a 1-2 Girona lead.
Real looked to get off the mat and get back on even terms, but the Girona defence stood firm, highlighted by Bono’s save on Bale in the final minutes. The day ended with a thud for Real when Ramos was sent off with his second yellow card of the day, putting his status for the league Clasico in jeopardy.
Worst of all for Real, they trudged off the pitch empty-handed, with their hopes of a league title all but disappeared.
1.- Real Madrid: Courtois; Odriozola, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Ceballos (Mariano, min. 75), Kroos; Lucas (Vinicius, min. 58), Benzema, Asensio (Bale, min. 66).
2.- Girona: Bono; Pedro Porro (Aleix Garcia, min. 46), Ramalho, Alcala, Juanpe, Raul Carnero; Pere Pons (Lozano, min. 46), Granell; Douglas Luiz, Portu (Valery, min. 84), Stuani.
Goals: 1-0, min. 25: Casemiro; 1-1, min. 65: Stuani (p); 1-2, min. 76: Stuani
Referee: Cuadra Fernandez (Balearic). Yellow Cards: Lozano (Min. 48) for Girona, Ramos (Min. 65) for Real Madrid, Casemiro (Min. 88) for Real Madrid, Ramos (Min. 89) for Real Madrid
Red cards: Ramos (Min. 89) for Real Madrid
Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu