High-flying La Liga new boys Girona racked up their eighth victory of the season, this time a comfortable 2-0 home victory over Basque big boys Athletic Bilbao, who recently splashed out a massive €32 million on defender Inigo Martinez. Christian Stuani, yes that Stuani, was again the hero with both goals.
Another win, yet another clean sheet and currently just two points outside a European qualification spot, as things stand, Pablo Manchin’s relentless troops show no signs of letting up in their pursuit to prove they’re no one season wonders and establish themselves at Spain’s top table.
Starting the season with an enthralling 2-2 draw at home to Atletico Madrid and, disappointingly losing a two goal lead, this exciting performance seemed to set the tone for what was to come as many people’s “second team in La Liga” wafted a breath of fresh air over La Liga.
Despite being the latest in the investment portfolio for The City Football Group, who purchased a 44.3% stake, the same group also have vested interests in Melbourne City FC, New York City FC, Club Atletico Torque of Uruguay, Yokohama Marinos and of course the flagship side Manchester City, it would be too easy to class the relative success as the “bank rolled minnows done good.”
Yes, the loan deals of four of Manchester City’s youth stars were approved, but only Pablo Maffeo seems to be getting regular game time, it is more to do with Manchin’s almost patented and strict belief in the 3-5-2 formation coupled with the obsessive work rate of his side that has won over the general public and almost infected the thinking of the sides they come up against.
The tireless work was summed up best by boss Machin when he said “The players are almost too tired to celebrate” after some games.
Two games in particular epitomize this belief and when the minnows from the outskirts of Barcelona were shown the utmost respect.
Both Diego Simeone and Zinedine Zidane tried to match them in formation and stop the asphyxiation of the midfield and go man for man on the wingbacks, usually Maffeo and Aday Benitez who must have as many miles on the clock as a still running 1985 Ford Escort.
With frustrating Los Rojiblancos in the first game and being terribly unlucky not to win, Girona travelled to the Wanda Metropolitano and again played with no fear, getting a deserved equaliser through Portu as they became only the fourth team at the time to take a point away from “Cholo” Simeone’s charges.
Real Madrid, World Champions, La Liga Champions and Champions league holders also had no answer when the illustrious visitors travelled to the 13,500 capacity Estadi Montilivi.
Off the pitch there is no literal comparison that can be made in terms of budget and infrastructure but as is the case at times, count for nothing once the white line is crossed.
Los Blancos took the lead through Isco just seconds after Maffeo had hit the post, but as usual heads did not drop and Girona continued their swashbuckling style in the second half with the belief of a massive result mouthwateringly close.
Ex- Middlesbrough “flop”, Stuani – currently sitting on an impressive 12 goals for the season – equalized before Portu backheeled the winner sending the record home crowd into a mix of disbelief and ecstasy.
Having also impressively dismantled a poor Las Palmas side 6-0, as another standout game this season the only worry could come in the form of burnout due to their incredible effort and small squad.
But with such a close race for Europe on the horizon, a potentially deserved place amongst Europe’s finest is tantalizingly close but would ultimately be the cherry on top of what has been an incredible and enjoyable first season.