Girona title bid further dented in Athletic defeat

Published February 21, 2024
GIRONA’S Yangel Herrera (C) vies for the ball with Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Gomez (L) and Alex Berenguer during their La Liga match at the San Mames Stadium.—AFP
GIRONA’S Yangel Herrera (C) vies for the ball with Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Gomez (L) and Alex Berenguer during their La Liga match at the San Mames Stadium.—AFP

BILBAO: Girona’s unlikely La Liga title bid suffered another dent in a 3-2 defeat by Athletic Bilbao on Monday, with Alex Berenguer striking twice for the Basque side.

After leaders Real Madrid were held to a draw by Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, the Catalan minnows, second, hoped to cut the six-point gap but lost in a gripping clash at San Mames.

Michel Sanchez’s side are now only two points ahead of champions Bar­celona and seven in front of fifth-place Athletic, chasing a top four spot.

Girona have failed to win any of their last three league matches.

After Berenguer sent Athletic ahe­ad, Viktor Tsygankov levelled for Girona.

However, Berenguer and Inaki Williams quickly netted for the hosts and although Eric Garcia pulled one back, Girona could not find the equaliser.

“We lacked a bit of determination in the final third ... I think the second half was good,” said Girona coach Michel, who watched from a box as he was banned from the touchline. “We have to continue, we can’t ask the team to always win and we have to keep fighting to stay up there.”

Athletic took the lead inside two minutes after Girona playmaker Aleix Garcia played a dangerous ball across the face of his own area.

Berenguer intercepted and drilled home inside the near post, catching out Paulo Gazzaniga.

Girona lacked their usual zip, still chastened from last weekend’s heavy 4-0 thrashing by leaders Real.

The Catalans pulled level at the start of the second half when Tsyga­nkov turned home Ivan Martin’s cross.

Girona did not keep parity for long with Berenguer netting his second following another Girona mistake.

Miguel Gutierrez dallied on the ball and was robbed by Gorka Guruzeta, who crossed for Berenguer to finish.

Girona’s defence was all at sea as Inaki Williams netted Athletic’s third.

Eric Garcia headed home from Aleix Garcia’s cross to give Girona the chance to rescue a point.

They almost did deep in stoppage time but Athletic defender Dani Vivian brilliantly headed John Solis’ shot off the line to safety.

“The reality has always been that our objective was to reach the Champions League, we’re still there,” Eric Garcia told DAZN.

“We have to continue, we can’t fool ourselves — we’ve come from a tricky run of games.”

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2024

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