Stuani boosts Girona European dream with late Betis winner

AFP , Sunday 31 Mar 2024

Cristhian Stuani's last-gasp strike earned Girona an entertaining 3-2 win over Real Betis on Sunday, keeping the minnows on track for Champions League qualification.

Girona s
Girona s Uruguayan forward Cristhian Stuani celebrates after scoring his team s late winner against Real Betis. Photo: AFP


Michel Sanchez's side had fallen badly out of form after running leaders Real Madrid close in the title race for most of the season, but Stuani's goal clinched their third win in eight matches.

Two David Lopez errors gifted Betis forward Willian Jose two goals to twice equalise goals from Girona forward Artem Dovbyk but veteran Uruguayan forward Stuani had the final say.

Girona, third, lead fourth place Athletic Bilbao by nine points before the Basque side visit Real Madrid later Sunday, while Atletico Madrid are 10 points behind in fifth and face Villarreal Monday.

With eight matches remaining Girona are seven points behind Los Blancos and two behind second-place Barcelona, who beat Las Palmas on Saturday.

"Until (qualification) is mathematically sealed, we'll keep working and preparing for matches as if they were the last," Stuani told DAZN.

"We're on a good path, living through a historic year and let's finish it in the best way we can."

At a rainy Montilivi stadium, the two sides tussled intensely without creating much in the opening stages.

Eventually, the hosts were handed an opportunity to break the deadlock when Chadi Riad handled Dovbyk's header.

The Ukrainian calmly slotted home from the spot to send his side ahead after 36 minutes, although they did not keep the lead for long.

In stoppage time, Lopez gave the ball way with a careless pass and Jose quickly lobbed home from over 30 yards out with Paulo Gazzaniga out of his goal.

Girona moved back in front after a good move, finished by Dovbyk. The striker slid home after Portu played him in on goal after 65 minutes, his 16th goal, putting him level with Madrid's Jude Bellingham as La Liga's top scorer.

Betis were soon back level after another Lopez mistake. Jose was again the beneficiary.

The defender stuck out a leg behind him to try and hook clear a cross but missed it and Jose controlled before firing home.

It seemed Girona were set to drop more points until Stuani finished acrobatically from close range in stoppage time after his first effort was saved.

"Luckily this goal at the end gave us the points," added Stuani.

"It's a unique feeling, difficult to explain, but the most important thing of all is three points for the team."

Fans celebrated wildly in the pouring rain at the end as their European dream took one more step towards becoming a reality. It would be a remarkable achievement for a club only in the top flight for the fourth season in their history.

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