02.12.2023 18:48 h

Girona 'making history', go top with superb comeback

Girona sprang a stunning late comeback to beat Valencia 2-1 on Saturday and breathe fresh life into their shock La Liga title bid.

Trailing to Hugo Duro's 56th minute strike with under 10 minutes remaining, the Catalan minnows finally broke down Valencia's walls through veteran striker Cristhian Stuani's brace to move provisionally three points clear at the top of the table.

Stuani levelled after 82 minutes and bundled home another with two minutes to go, with both goals set up by Yan Couto crosses as fans at Girona's tiny Montilivi stadium went wild.

After dropping two points in a draw with Athletic Bilbao on Monday, Girona seemed poised to fall to only their second defeat of the season.

"It's good to recognise that we are making history, it can't be something normal that we've taken 12 wins from 15 games," Girona coach Michel told reporters.

"I only ask that in the bad moments we are united, I keep thinking that -- Madrid, Barca, Atleti, is not our league -- we will not keep up this rhythm, and we should all be sure about that."

Towering striker Artem Dovbyk missed arguably Girona's best chance until their late goals in the first minute, with Giorgi Mamardashvili parrying his strike after he cut in from the right.

The Catalans suffered a setback when Yangel Herrera limped off injured and was replaced by Pablo Torre, on loan from Barcelona.

Ruben Bareja's well-drilled Valencia shut down the usually free-scoring hosts throughout, limiting them largely to half-chances.

Dovbyk also wasted another rare presentable opportunity before half-time, as the Ukrainian forward tried to flick the ball past Mamardashvili, who again denied him.

The Georgian goalkeeper made a fine save to thwart Girona playmaker Aleix Garcia in the 54th minute and Valencia quickly reaped further reward.

Duro intercepted a pass on the half-way line, tearing into the empty space ahead of him and dinked a cute finish over Paulo Gazzaniga.

Baraja threw on more defenders from the bench to further frustrate Girona, setting Dimitri Foulquier to man-mark Brazilian winger Savinho, who was starting to thrive after Michel switched him to the right.

Substitute Stuani could have pulled Girona level but directed his header at Mamardashvili when Viktor Tsygankov found him at the back post, although he quickly made amends.

Couto, on from the bench, whipped in another cross to the same area a minute later and veteran Uruguayan forward Stuani, 37, was on hand to convert from point blank range.

Right-back Couto, on loan from Manchester City thanks to the City Football Group's stake in Girona, then aimed another cross towards Stuani and he managed to turn home despite a rebound against defender Cristhian Mosquera.

"I'm very happy for the team, for the fight that we had with the scoreline against us," Stuani told DAZN.

"The team did not let themselves surrender -- (Valencia) set up very well.

"We did not stop trying, we locked them in their box and in the end the goals arrived."

Girona thought they had a third goal in stoppage time when Savinho blasted home, but it was ruled out for offside against Cristian Portu.

In only their fourth season in the top flight in their history, Girona keep finding ways to surprise.

"Girona move you around, they play with you, they are a magnificent team and there's a reason why they are first," Duro told DAZN.

"It hurts because we leave with no points and we did a good job -- today we didn't deserve to lose.

"The team worked so hard, some of us can't even breathe, I'm finding it hard to speak."