Girona drop vital points in title race, Barca beat Alaves

Real Sociedad’s Spanish midfielder #10 Mikel Oyarzabal fights for the ball with Girona’s Brazilian defender #20 Yan Couto during the Spanish league football match between Girona FC and Real Sociedad at the Montilivi stadium in Girona on February 3, 2024. AFP

Shock title challengers Girona dropped two vital points in La Liga with a 0-0 draw against Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Barcelona, third, earned a 3-1 win at Alaves in La Liga on Saturday with Brazilian teenager Vitor Roque scoring and then sent off in a lively appearance off the bench.

Catalan minnows Girona, second and now trailing leaders Real Madrid by one point, could not find a way through against their Basque visitors.

Los Blancos face city rivals Atletico Madrid on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabeu and can potentially move four points clear at the top.

Girona’s draw leaves them six points ahead of champions Barcelona, third, and they were left upset after Yangel Herrera had a goal ruled out for offside in the build-up.

The offside against Savinho occurred 36 seconds before the midfielder found the net, set up by the Brazilian winger, with Girona arguing VAR should not have intervened.

Some crosses had been half-cleared by Real Sociedad before Savinho scooped the ball to the back post for Herrera.

“The reality is that if there’s a second, third phases (of play), VAR should not get involved, I think it’s obvious,” said Michel.

“Beyond the goal ruled out, I think it was a very, very difficult game … and it’s a good point.”

Despite leading the league in goals scored, Michel Sanchez’s side were largely kept at arm’s length by La Real.

After Herrera’s goal was disallowed, Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal also had one chalked off for a clearer offside infringement.

Alex Remiro made a solid save to deny Herrera in the final stages as the hosts were frustrated and Michel was sent off for complaining on the touchline.

Valery Fernandez missed a fine chance in stoppage time after Yan Couto scrapped hard to win the ball back and crossed for the Spanish winger.

Without La Liga’s joint top goalscorer Artem Dovbyk, who watched from the stands after suffering knee discomfort according to Spanish reports, Girona did not shine in attack.

They will have the chance to make amends next weekend when they visit Real Madrid in a crunch showdown.

However coach Michel will not be in the dugout, while Herrera and Daley Blind were both booked and are also suspended for the key clash.

“I don’t like that they sent me off, I protested, it’s true, but I didn’t lack respect for anyone,” said Michel.

“The red card leaves me furious.”

– Roque red –

Champions Barcelona took the lead against Alaves through Robert Lewandowski in the first half and doubled their advantage when Ilkay Gundogan volleyed home soon after the break.

Samu Omorodion pulled a goal back for the hosts before 18-year-old striker Roque pounced and a few minutes later was harshly dismissed.

Barcelona’s victory helps them cut the gap on league leaders Real Madrid to seven points before Los Blancos face Atletico Madrid in a derby clash Sunday.

They have won both of their matches since Xavi announced last weekend he would leave the club at the end of the season.

Xavi selected Andreas Christensen in defensive midfield for the first time in his Barcelona career, with the Catalans still unable to find a reliable replacement for Sergio Busquets.

The Danish defender was solid and showed Xavi he is an option for the future in the role.

“He was comfortable, aggressive, didn’t lose the ball, kept his eyes open — we were good on transitions, he gave us discipline,” Xavi told reporters.

Roque, who arrived in the January transfer window from Brazilian side Athletico Paranaense, was on the pitch less than 15 minutes after he was shown two yellow cards.

The second was for an innocuous challenge on Rafa Marin, but there was no video review as VAR cannot ask officials to check second yellow card incidents.

Barcelona coach Xavi said Friday La Liga was “completely adulterated” by rivals Real Madrid because of heavy criticism towards officials broadcast on the club’s television channel.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti dismissed Xavi’s words as “unprofessional” but Roque’s red card will only add more fuel to the flames.

“We will appeal it because it’s clear that it’s an error, it’s another error from the referee towards us,” Xavi told DAZN.

“Evidently it’s an unfair red card.”

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