Shock Spanish title challengers Girona snatched a remarkable 4-3 victory over Atletico Madrid to keep pace with Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Wednesday. After Los Blancos edged Real Mallorca 1-0 thanks to Antonio Rudiger‘s goal, Ivan Martin’s stoppage time strike ensured the Catalan minnows matched Carlo Ancelotti’s side on 48 points from 19 matches. Alvaro Morata hit a hat-trick for Atletico at Girona’s tiny Montilivi stadium, but it was not enough as Martin found the top corner at the death to keep Girona firmly in the hunt for the title.
Atletico, third, trail both Real and Girona by 10 points, as do champions Barcelona, fourth, who visit Las Palmas on Thursday.
Valery Fernandez, Savinho and Daley Blind netted for the hosts in a wild first half, with Morata twice scoring for Atletico.
The Spain international completed his treble early in the second period to pull Atletico level but Martin’s last gasp heroics snatched Girona victory from a compelling clash.
“It’s a historic night for us, for the city, for the province,” Girona coach Michel told Movistar.
Girona, in only their fourth season in the top flight in their history and promoted in 2022, could have taken the lead inside the first minute.
Artem Dovbyk fired wide at the near post when well placed, but his team did not have to wait much longer.
Valery curled home in the second minute beyond Jan Oblak with a fine strike from the edge of the area, before Morata pulled Atletico level, staying onside by a whisker.
Girona were quickly back ahead with Savinho netting after 26 minutes, turning home after Oblak parried Martin’s effort.
Blind turned home the third after Aleix Garcia’s cross was cleverly flicked on to the back post by Dovbyk.
Morata was heavily involved for Atletico and after netting from Rodrigo de Paul’s pass, struck again — this time he was offside.
The forward completed his hat-trick after the break with the aid of a slight deflection, after being sent through again by De Paul.
The game continued to flow end-to-end before Martin decided it, scrapping for an inch of space inside the area and prodding a finish into the top corner, with Oblak only able to watch as Girona’s dream grew bigger still.
Mallorca battled well against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu before Rudiger grabbed the hosts their victory.
The defender headed home from a corner with 12 minutes remaining to settle a tight clash in which Mallorca twice hit the woodwork.
Vinicius Junior made his return from injury as Los Blancos struggled to find a way through against their stubborn visitors at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Eventually Rudiger converted from Luka Modric‘s corner to seal victory ahead of second-place Girona’s clash with Atletico Madrid, third, later Wednesday.
“I scored last season (against Mallorca) and this year again, I’m very happy because it was an important goal and an important three points for us,” said Rudiger.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti was happy his team took advantage of a set piece to secure victory, just as they did against Alaves in their last game of 2023.
“We lacked some freshness and accuracy in the final third, but we won because of a well-taken set piece,” Ancelotti told reporters.
“There are games like today’s in which dead balls can give you an advantage — we played against a team that defended well.”
Madrid have now gone 18 matches without defeat across all competitions.
With David Alaba and Eder Militao injured and Nacho Fernandez suspended, the Italian was forced to innovate, but he was able to bring winger Vinicius back into the side for the first time since November 11 after a hamstring injury.
Vinicius dragged wide of goal and then was thwarted by Mallorca goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic on a relatively quiet return.
Ancelotti withdrew Vinicius in the 60th minute for Brahim Diaz, who hit the post with a close-range diving header before Rudiger eventually pounced.