Bouncing back from a defeat can be a daunting task, even for the best clubs in the world. Matchday 12 of La Liga saw Real Madrid play against Girona in their first game after suffering a 3-2 defeat to Leipzig, and the spotlight was on the man in white to see if they could come back strong.
Carlo Ancelotti made two changes to the side that defeated Sevilla last weekend. David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger started in central defence, with Daniel Carvajal, and Ferland Mendy deployed to their right and left, respectively.
Luka Modric returned to the starting lineup after missing the game midweek and played in midfield alongside Eduardo Camavinga and Toni Kroos. The lineup was completed by Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo and injury returnee Federico Valverde in the final third.
The first half was a dull affair, with both sides lacking their usual energy. While Girona were happy to sit tight and defend, Los Blancos’ attack often looked blunt and short of inspiration.
Rodrygo had a decent chance in the tenth minute when he shot at goal from distance. While his shot was well placed, Gazzaniga made a phenomenal save to deny the Brazilian.
The visitors threatened to take the lead ten minutes later through a well-organised sequence on the right wing. Arnau Martinez did well to find Valery Fernandez in the box, but the latter’s header went wide.
Real Madrid’s biggest chance of the first half fell to Rodrygo in the 24th minute when his shot on goal painfully hit the woodwork. Yet, the hosts were not the only side who could complain of being denied by the woodwork, for Valery’s goalbound shot rattled Courtois’s crossbar just 14 minutes later.
Los Blancos came out in the second half with more intent but were still well-contained by Girona’s defence. Neither side created any clear chances until the hour mark as the game slowly slipped away from Real Madrid’s hands.
Marco Asensio came on for Eduardo Camavinga in the 61st minute at a stage where the visitors seemed to have the upper hand. Girona enjoyed some glorious chances past the hour mark but could not make the most of them. Thibaut Courtois was forced to make a nervy 1v1 save against Valery during the same period.
Ancelotti’s side finally got their lead in the 70th minute after a bamboozling series of passes in the buildup. The chain of passes terminated with Federico Valverde crossing the ball across the face of the goal for Vinicius Jr to bury it and break the deadlock.
Just a minute later, Asensio’s shot from point-blank range was emphatically saved by Gazzaniga.
Marco Asensio gave the visitors a lifeline in the 78th minute when he gave away a cheap penalty after handling the ball in the Real Madrid area. VAR intervened and awarded Girona the spot-kick, which Christian Stuani converted in style.
Eder Militao and Mariano Diaz came on for Ferland Mendy and Federico Valverde in the 87th minute.
Rodrygo got onto the end of Mariano’s cross in a rapid counter in the penultimate minute, but his goal was ruled out by the referee for a rare reason. The match official insisted that the Brazilian kicked the ball into the goal while Gazzaniga had a hand over the ball, giving Girona a free kick.
Toni Kroos received his marching orders for a rash challenge in the 91st minute that earned him a second yellow card.
Down to ten men, Real Madrid could not salvage an equaliser and dropped points for only the second time this season. While the hosts will feel harshly done by the referee’s decisions on the night, it is now concerning that the team have just one point in their last two games.