With a 1-0 victory over Rafa Benitez’s Celta Vigo on Sunday, Girona took back the top spot in La Liga, courtesy of a goal from Portu early in the first half and outstanding play from custodian Paulo Gazzaniga for the surprising league leaders.
Girona is the only team atop the table with 55 points, one more than Real Madrid, who play Getafe on Thursday and have a game in hand. In two weeks, Real Madrid and Girona will play at the Bernabeu.
After suffering a devastating 5-3 loss to Villarreal on Saturday, Barcelona is in third place with 44 points. Their coach, Xavi Hernandez, stated that he would be leaving as manager at the conclusion of the season.
Girona recovered from their midweek 3-2 loss to Mallorca in the Copa del Rey to play a strong game in Vigo against a struggling Celta team that is currently 16th in the standings, just above the relegation zone.
Celta had the better of the first half and came close to scoring in the eighteenth minute when Ñscar Mingueza sent a tremendous long-range effort that Gazzaniga palmed round the post and into the corner.
Two minutes later, Portu scored an incredible close-range goal past custodian Vicente Guaita for Girona after pouncing on a low cross from Miguel Gutiérrez to clear a defender with a fast cut.
From that point on, Gazzaniga performed brilliantly to keep the home team out and contribute to securing the three points.
Before the half, he produced an incredible reaction stop to palm a header from close range by Jorgen Strand Larsen off the crossbar and turned away two one-on-one attempts from Anastasios Douvikas.
He held onto a long-range drive from Luca de la Torre in the second half, but Girona took control of the game, slowed it down, and preserved their narrow victory.
Following the match, Girona’s coach Míchel denied any speculations that suggested he was considering a job at Barça and played down his team’s prospects of winning La Liga.
“My attention is on Girona. The person who understands FC Barcelona the best is Xavi,” he remarked. Nothing, because my contract is valid until 2026. Barça is Xavi.
“I believe that today’s three points move us one step closer to earning a trip to Europe. Both La Real [Sociedad] and Barça lost ground. Is it possible for us to make it to the Champions League? When there are ten games left to play, let’s check after six more.
“If we are in the race for the Champions League and close to this Real Madrid, maybe, but seeing how Madrid are playing, winning games easily, it’s going to be really hard.”