Real Madrid lose in troubled Catalonia

Monday, October 30, 2017

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GIRONA, Spain (AFP) — Real Madrid suffered a backlash on the field rather than from an expected hostile atmosphere amid political turmoil in Catalonia as they slumped to a shock 1-2 defeat at Girona yesterday.

Goals from Cristhian Stuani and Portu in four second-half minutes cancelled out Isco's opener for Madrid as Real fell eight points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona after just 10 games.

Madrid were making their first appearance in the deeply divided region since a violence marred October 1 referendum plunged Spain into political crisis.

As a reported one million people joined a rally in Barcelona in favour of Spanish unity yesterday, just over 100 kilometres away in the pro-independence heartland of Girona, the visitors were expected to receive a hostile reception.

However, it was events on the field that proved far more troublesome for Zinedine Zidane's men as they lost more ground on rivals Barca in the Liga title race.

Chants in favour of independence and “freedom” reverberated around the 13,500 capacity Montlivi in the 17th minute as is common at Girona and Barcelona home matches to mark the fall of Catalonia in the Spanish War of Succession in 1714.

However, with plenty of Madrid fans present, there were also plenty of Spanish flags on show.

In their first ever match against the European champions, Girona looked keen to make a mark from the outset and were desperately unlucky not to go in front when Pablo Maffeo's cross came back off the inside of the post 12 minutes in.

Seconds later, though, the ball was in the Girona net as Madrid broke immediately upfield and Isco tapped home the rebound after Bono parried Cristiano Ronaldo's initial effort.

Girona continued to dominate the game and hit the woodwork again before half-time when Portu's flicked header looped over Kiko Casilla and back off the inside of the post.

Real suffered an injury blow days before they travel to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League on Wednesday as Raphael Varane was replaced by Nacho at half-time due to a muscular problem.

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