La Liga: Girona's title hope fades in loss to Bilbao

February 20, 2024
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Athletic Bilbao dealt a major blow to Girona's La Liga title hopes with a thrilling 3-2 home win in the San Mames Stadium.

Madrid, Feb 20 (IANS) Athletic Bilbao dealt a major blow to Girona’s La Liga title hopes with a thrilling 3-2 home win in the San Mames Stadium. The seventh consecutive home win also gave Bilbao the chance of a top-four finish. Girona are now six points behind leaders Real Madrid, while Bilbao are fifth, two points behind Atletico Madrid.

Alex Berenguer scored twice for the home side and Inaki Williams netted the third, while Viktor Tsygankov and Eric Garcia scored for the visitors.

Bilbao opened the scoring in the second minute when high pressure forced Aleix Garcia to play a horizontal pass in front of his own penalty area. Berenguer intercepted the ball, turned and beat Paulo Gazzaniga with a powerful left-foot shot.

Girona looked to control possession, and a left-foot effort from Tsygankov forced Bilbao keeper Unai Simon into his only save of the half.

The Ukrainian curled another effort wide soon afterwards, before the home side took control in midfield, led by the impressive Benat Prados.

He set up Inaki Williams to cut inside and hit a shot that clipped the outside of the post, with the elder of the Williams brothers finding space on the right, but being wasteful with his final ball.

Bilbao had to replace right-back Inigo Lekue with Oscar de Marcos 15 minutes before the break after Lekue suffered an apparent muscle injury.

Tsygankov leveled for Girona at the start of the second half, after an Ivan Martin cross three minutes into the second half, before Berenguer’s second and a goal from Williams looked to put the game beyond Girona’s reach.

Berenguer hit a right-foot effort from Gorka Guruzeta’s cross after the home side’s pressing forced an error from Girona left-back Miguel Gutierrez in the 56th minute and Williams made it 3-1 four minutes later with a right-foot effort.

The forward twice went close to adding a fourth, before Garcia stooped to nod home a freekick 15 minutes from time to add drama to the closing minutes.

Play was halted for six minutes after a fan suffered an epileptic fit in the stands, and in a frantic last few minutes, Unai Simon denied Savio before Dani Vivian nodded Jhon Solis’ goalbound effort off the line.

–IANS/bc/

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