Barcelona 2-2 Girona: La Liga – as it happened

John Brewin on 23 September 2018

A famous result for Girona, and they were ahead at one point after some superb forward play from Christian Stuani. Pique made amends for being culpable for both goals by scoring his own for the equaliser. Messi had scored his requisite goal for the opener. That was a very good game indeed. If the return does get moved across the pond, then the good folks of Florida are probably in for a right treat.

Full-time: Barcelona 2-2 Girona

90+3 mins: One last slalom from Messi cannot find its way through and the final whistle comes.

90+2 mins: Pique is up front in the style of Robert Huth in José Mourinho’s golden day - and Cruyff with Alexanco - but the ball is not finding its way up to the big man.

90 mins: Girona actually look reasonably comfortable and there are groans from home fans as passes go awry. Messi goes down, looking for a free-kick. He doesn’t get it. At the back post, Pique could not climb high enough to get the ball and score a winning, vindicating goal.

89 mins: Barcelona push on, but this is not exactly full bore, as relentless as they can be in their pomp. Messi doesn’t have the energy these days, maybe, and there is no Xavi or Iniesta to keep driving the tempo. Age: it does for us all.

87 mins: Rakitic drives the ball forward from deep. The ball eventually makes its way to Coutinho, who cuts in to seize on a Messi flick. The target, though, is missed.

86 mins: Busquets fell to the floor as soon as he got to the edge of the box. Unlike him...The referee is wise to such chicanery and there will be no penalty.

85 mins: As he does in these situations, Messi is dropping deep, while Umtiti has pushed on into midfield. Girona are meanwhile trying to hold their own shape.

83 mins: Coutinho is over eager when he gets a chance to shoot. He gets the ball on his favoured right foot but can’t beat Bono. Girona under the cosh now, and looking tired. And tonight thank God it’s them instead of you...

82 mins: Messi is seizing control of this. First his weaving run causes havoc and then he takes the resulting corner. Girona hanging on, though.

81 mins: Further Bono pun from a Learn English Through Football: “Where the Sheets have no Stains (when Bono keeps a clean sheet).”

80 mins: Umititi tries to do a Pique and is up in the opposite box. Pique wins the ball but the Frenchman’s shot is blocked.

78 mins: Girona buy time and territory by taking an age over a throw-in. They don’t keep it for too long. There’s a penalty claim when Alcala and Messi collide. The crowd demand it but Messi doesn’t which reveals the credibility of the claim.

76 mins: Girona have filled up the central block, creating traffic for Messi to get caught up in. Barcelona have not exactly let the throttle go just yet, either.

75 mins: Girona now sitting back deep, deeper than they began the game. Stuani is an island up front. The extra man is not buying them much time to rest on the ball.

73 mins: Messi, at last on the run in open space, releases Coutinho down the left but Girona are back in numbers and a return ball does not come. The door is being knocked on.

72 mins: Henry C emails in again. “Anyone else notice Pique has shaved off his beard as well?” There has to be a sponsor involved somewhere in this.

71 mins: Douglas Luiz, one of the City loan stars, comes on for captain Granell, who takes as long as possible to come off, handshakes, crossing himself, praising the heavens, you name it.

70 mins: Suarez looks to be in pain, having been bumped into by the forceful Alcala. Another look at the Pique goal reminds of what a good header that was.

68 mins: Another Barcelona free-kick. Alcala hacked Messi down. That’s all three Girona central defenders booked. Messi will take, five yards from the ‘D’, having dragged the ball back to where he wants to take it from. Portu is booked for pointing this out. Messi’s kick is actually rather disappointing; Bono makes the save with ease.

66 mins: John McEnerney has gone full gun on the Bono puns: “Things look Bad for FCB if Girona win this Boy it’ll be The Sweetest Thing. Pride is the name of the game One goal cud decide this. If God Will Send His Angels to protect Girona’s goal this will be a Beautiful Day!”

Even better than the real thing.

Updated

64 mins: This has been a Catalonian classic. Barcelona are not as good as they were and that makes for a better contest. Girona are now trying to break up the play. A draw is good for them still. It is worth recalling they have one more player than their opponent.

Goal! Barcelona 2-2 Girona (Pique, 63)

Pique makes amends. Bono has to smother an angled shot from Suarez. The ball pings into the air and Pique climbs highest, heading a spinning ball into the net. He was brave.

60 mins: Another free-kick for Barcelona in a similar position after a Juanpe foul. Messi takes it again, this time from the right-hand side of the box. Bono scrabbles it away when it didn’t look to be going in.

59 mins: Woodwork! A free kick in a dangerous position. Messi, of course, takes it on. From 30 metres out he drifts it off the bar with Bono beaten.

58 mins: Off come Vidal and Arthur for Rakitic and Coutinho. That’s all three of Barca’s subs made now.

56 mins: Not much going on this game at the moment. Barcelona getting ready to regroup, while Girona are happy to watch the clock tick by. Big brother Manchester City have only beaten Barca once.

54 mins: Coutinho is indeed imminent, as is Rakitic, not bad to bring on. The glass is being smashed in the case of this emergency.

53 mins: Is it time for Coutinho to come on? Barcelona did play £140m for him, after all.

52 mins: Pique was disastrous there while Stuani was inspired. The finish was fantastic as was the run from Portu. The lack of pace at the heart of Barcelona is striking. When did Pique get so old?

Goal! Barcelona 1-2 Girona (Stuani, 51)

Pique cannot cope with Portu’s run, and there looked to have been a foul. The ball comes to Stuani and he lashes it into the roof of the net. The shock is on!

48 mins: Barcelona resume the dominance of possession they enjoyed in the first 30 minutes. Suarez surges on to the ball and shoots, and Girona are rescued by a deflection.

47 mins: So Barcelona have gone back to a back four with Sergio Busquets no longer required to step back as an auxiliary defender.

46 mins: We are back underway. Barcelona have made a sub, as have Girona. On comes Umtiti for Demeble and Borja Garcia has replaced Aleix Garcia.

The second half is about to start. Girona have a chance to pull of the greatest result in their history. Barca players, with Pique to the fore, are still complaining about the red card.

News from elsewhere, Chelsea out of the title race...

Half-time: Barcelona 1-1 Girona

Barcelona had a little under-amped, even before going down to ten men, and their defensive problems were exposed in that spell at the end of the first half. Pique was lax, weak as Stuani scored his goal while red-carded Lenglet paid for a lapse that was momentary but enough for him to be caught out by the all-seeing eye of VAR.

45 mins: Barcelona failed to see out the half and Middlesbrough legend Stuani did for them. They immediately push for another as Alba overlaps down the left. Messi’s shot is over the bar. It turns out that Alba was offside in the first place.

Goal! Barcelona 1-1 Girona (Stuani, 45)

Great centre-forward play from the Uruguayan. He took the ball down well, holds off Pique, blazes past Busquets and scores. A fine goal.

43 mins: The ball is back with Pique, who is controlling the game as a libero from the back. Nice and easy from Barca as they try to get to half-time where Ernesto Valverde can get into them. Or likely Pique and Messi can get into them.

41 mins: Barcelona still dominating possession, and Suarez continues to hustle in attack. They are in front and a goal to the good, but they still want more.

39 mins: That all sets up a Barcelona free-kick, from which Messi’s left foot fails to trouble Bono. Not taxing for Bono etc etc....

38 mins: Another yellow card. Junape is booked for a swing of the arm in the direction of Suarez. That looked a little harsh as Suarez had knocked the Girona player off-balance.

37 mins: This still seems unlikely to push Girona much further forward; and Barcelona still have spare men at the back even with ten men.

35 mins: Well well, Lenglet knew he had been a bad boy, judging by his haste in making up with Pere Pons. The VAR man got that right. There were lengthy protestations, with Messi leading the delegation. It came to nothing. Off Lenglet had to pop.

Red card! Lenglet is sent off for Barcelona

Trial by VAR results in the sending off. The ref went to watch in his booth. The more the video is shown, the more it looks a sending off.

32 mins: A collision between Lenglet and Pere Pons. Bit of a forearm smash from the Frenchman, and a kissing and making up. But what’s this? Some VAR action. Lenglet could be in lumber here.

31 mins: Girona playing very much on the counter, as might be expected. They are having to soak up a huge amount of pressure though Barca have actually been sparing in raining the shots down.

28 mins: Girona go close! Oof! Striker Portu found space in the inside-right challenge, got round Ter Stegen but and gets his shot on goal from an angle. The ball is hurriedly cleared by Pique. Still some vulnerability to Barca’s defence. Portu ran out of space and energy to get that shot on goal.

27 mins: Girona finding their feet a little more? No, Suarez forages for a second ball, and finds Dembele who has his shot saved by Bono.

25 mins: Another look at the goal suggests Muniesa was lax in letting Vidal escape to set up Messi. Tony Pulis would not have been impressed by that at Stoke.

23 mins: A correction on that first Messi shot, with info from Henry Carter. Bono made a fingertip save. Could be a Sunday, bloody Sunday for him, though. I’ll stop now, but any U2-related puns are most welcome.

22 mins: It already looks an exercise in keeping the score down for Pere Guardiola and Sheikh Mansour’s brave boys. They will need to close down more space to escape a pounding.

21 mins: Luis Suarez shrugs off a defender or two and powers a shot goalwards. Bono made a fine save down low. With or without him, Girona are really coming under the pump now.

19 mins: There has been warning shots and it was criminal negligence to allow Messi that type of space. His shot was pin-sharp, unsaveable.

Goal! Barcelona 1-0 Girona (Messi, 19)

Vidal lays the ball across goal and Messi slide-rules the ball into the corner. There has been no reverse Samson with his beard.

17 mins: John McEnerney tweets in. “CR7 is thinking about the marketing plus his Mammy would knock 40 shades out of him if he got tats. If he was to get a tattoo it would be one of himself doing the shirt off celebration he wouldn’t screw it uplike the sculptor who did the bust of him last year.”

16 mins: The Camp Nou is quiet tonight. Not sure the locals have embraced this as a local derby.

14 mins: Barcelona’s Arthur is booked for a foul on Benitez. He protests, saying it was his first offence but gets no sympathy. Stuani is booked straight after for an accumulation of fouls.

11 mins: Messi on the rampage! Beats three players with drops of the shoulder and speed of foot but the shot is punched wide. That was the first glimpse of his genius, which comes in fits and starts these days.

10 mins: Eusebio played with Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman in that team under Johan Cruyff and with Hristo Stoichkov and the rest. That suggests he wasn’t a bad player himself.

8 mins: A corner is taken short, but comes to naught. On the bench, Eusebio the Girona manager, and a European Cup winner with Barca in 1992, looks pensive, as well he might.

7 mins: Girona more open than might have been expected. They are sat back in numbers but also prepared to push on and leave spaces.

6 mins: Those Barca subs, by the way: Cillessen, Rakitic, Denis Suárez, Coutinho, Munir Roberto, Umtiti. Not bad, really. Alba almost opens the scoring as Dembele, who is being granted the freedom of Catalonia pings in a cross.

4mins: Down in the corner, Gerard Pique is fouled by Stuani, a silly foul as it releaved Girona pressure. Nevertheless, Girona are pushing on and have a corner from which Bernardo finds freedom. His header should have been better. Ter Stegen saves, with no little relief.

Updated

2 mins: The game sets into what has to be expected to be the pattern of play: Barcelona assume dominance of possession, but fail to get Jordi Alba round the back on the overlap. The first of many last-ditch tackles gets the ball clear.

Updated

Away we go!

1 min: Messi’s smooth face gets its first public outing. He’ll be playing alongside Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Girona began the day in 11th, having finished 10th last season. Barcelona were of course champions last season, unbeaten until they rested Lionel Messi for their 37th match against Levante. There were rumours Messi might be rested today; it hasn’t happened.

Girona’s players went through some kind of pre-match ritual in the tunnel, getting into a huddle and then hollering at each other in the style of the All Blacks’ haka.

Serge Nuffler emails in: “Re Messi’s faux-hipster facial hair: it would be so much better indeed if Messi got rid of his tats...”

That reminds of Sir Alex Ferguson on Cristiano Ronaldo. “He hasn’t spoiled his body with tattoos” or something along those lines. The explanation for that was supplied by Ronaldo a few years back: he says he donates a lot of blood.

Barcelona are chasing down Real Madrid - who else?

Here’s the big news from the Barcelona camp.

NB: Only three Girona players in that squad are on loan from Manchester City, and only one of them, Aleix Garcia, makes the starting line-up. Douglas Luiz and Patrick Roberts are on the bench. Stoke City legend Marc Muniesa gets to play against his former club.

Team news

Barcelona

Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Vidal, Arthur; Suarez, Messi, Dembele. Subs: To follow...

Girona

Bono, Bernardo, Alcala, Juanpe, Aday, Aleix Garcia, Pere Pons, Granell, Muniesa, Portu, Stuani. Subs: Iraizoz, Borja Garcia, Douglas, Roberts, Doumbia, Eric Montes

Preamble

If the money men have their say, the return of this fixture, set for January, will be played in the USA! USA! USA!, Miami to be precise, rather than Estadi Montilivi. Playing a “regular season” game abroad continues to be a battleground, with Real Madrid prez Florentino Pérez saying earlier today that he won’t be taking his lads across the Atlantic. It is an issue that continues to rage in Spain, just as it did in England a decade ago or so over the 39th game.

On with the actual football? Well, sort of. Let us recall that Girona are the club part-owned by Manchester City’s owners, and part-owned by Pep Guardiola’s brother Pere. Without the cash thus flowing into the club’s accounts, and the talent shunted across the City Football Group mothership, it is unlikely they would have pushed for the Europa League last season. This is a derby match of sorts, with Girona purportedly near to Barcelona, as anyone who has caught a budget flight to “Barcelona” will know; it’s about 100km and takes about 90 minutes on a ten euro bus as Catalonia’s answer to London Southend Airport.

The football, then. Barcelona have an unbeaten record this season and Lionel Messi smashed in a hat-trick in the Champions League. Girona have only lost once this season, and that was to Real Madrid.

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