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It took just over an hour for FC Barcelona to finally put the ball in the net in a tough, gritty Catalan derby that they were never in comfortable control of. Not even the goal changed things, and rather than kill off the game with a second, the final half hour was more about battling to prevent the men in red and white striped shirts from nicking an equaliser.
Ronald Araujo and Ter Stegen were especially providential as Barça brilliantly kept Girona at bay. Although this was by no means a display of champagne football from Xavi Hernández’s side, they got the job done, and will be spending at least one more week at the top of the Liga table.
Wearing their brand new ‘senyera’ fourth strip, Barça were unsettled against a side that’s not afraid to take risks. Their few early chances were as much due to Girona errors as anything else, and the Barça forwards failed to take them.
Losing Ousmane Dembélé to injury in the first half was a cruel blow to Barça, especially as the home side looked a lot more relaxed, especially at the back, with the in-form Frenchman gone.
100 per cent Pedri
But there are no flies on Dembélé’s replacement. Pedri, on as a substitute to become the second youngest player in club history to rack up 100 appearances, was able to celebrate the event with the goal that finally broke the stalemate.
A sweet build-up, Jordi Alba slipped in the final ball, Girona keeper Gazzaniga was unable to fully intercept, and the Canary Islander was ready and waiting to pop home.
Girona weren’t going to lie down and take defeat that easily though, and the rest of the game was more about them pushing for an equaliser than Barça threatening for a second.
Barça had a let-off midweek when Real Sociedad missed a late sitter, and at Montilivi it happened again. Iván Martín will be having nightmares this evening remembering the simple chance that he sent flying into the stands.
These are two clubs that have a splendid relationship, but that wasn’t always apparent in the final minutes. Tempers were raging in the home ranks, and Girona coach Michel ended up being shown a red card. But despite the opposition’s fury, Barça kept their calm, and most importantly of all, they kept the three points.
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