Gundogan leads Barcelona to win at Alaves after Roque's second yellow card
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Girona wasted its chance to retake the lead of the Spanish league after being held 0-0 by Real Sociedad on Saturday, giving Real Madrid a boost at the top ahead of two key matches.
Girona coach Míchel Sánchez was sent off with a red card in the 89th for protesting excessively. That means he will miss next weekend's trip to Madrid in a game that could go a long way to deciding the title race.
Girona is one point behind Real Madrid, which hosts fourth-place Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
“I protested in a natural way, I didn’t disrespect anyone,” Míchel said. “Maybe a yellow card would have been enough. I am going to miss two nice matches, at Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, and that bothers me.
"It is not the same not being on the touchline. A coach wants to have the sensation of what is going on on the field.”
Barcelona remained in third place at seven points behind Madrid after Ilkay Gundogan led a 3-1 win at Alaves in a game the visitors finished with 10 men.
Girona has changed from a surprise package into a serious title contender, even above fellow Catalan club Barcelona. Míchel’s side has only lost once in the league when it fell at home to Madrid in September. It has since gone 15 rounds without a defeat.
Yangel Herrera had a first-half goal waived off after a video review spotted an offside near the beginning of a long team move, a decision protested by Girona.
Valery Fernández had a chance to grab the stoppage-time winner for Girona when Yan Couto set him up, only for him to fire wide.
Girona played the match without joint-league top scorer Artem Dovbyk due to an unspecified fitness issue reported by the club shortly before kickoff.
Girona will also be without Herrera and Daley Blind for the trip to Madrid while they serve one-game suspensions after both picked up a fifth booking.
‘MATURE’ WIN FOR BARCELONA
The win at Alaves made it two straight victories for Barcelona since Xavi Hernández said he would not continue as coach after this season following last weekend’s 5-3 loss at home to Villarreal. After that debacle he had said his players had lacked the “maturity” to protect their lead and compete for the entire match.
But after the comfortable win in Vitoria, Xavi praised his team for what he called a “mature,” all-round performance.
“I think my team played a mature game,” Xavi said. “It showed it knew how to compete, and at a pitch that is very demanding and requires you to be focused for 90 minutes. I am satisfied. This is the response by the team that I expected."
Robert Lewandowski ended a six-round scoreless streak when he chipped the goalkeeper after receiving a through ball from Gundogan for the opener in the 22nd.
After Alaves came close to equalizing at the end of the first half, Gundogan skillfully volleyed in a lobbed pass by Pedri González at the far post to double the lead in the 49th.
Alaves striker Samuel Omorodion responded quickly to Gundogan’s goal with a header in the 51st.
But Vitor Roque, who came on for Gundogan, scored for a second consecutive game to likely ensure the victory in the 63rd. The Brazilian forward was sent off in the 72nd minute after picking up two quick yellow cards.
Barcelona also won midweek with a 1-0 league win over Osasuna, thanks to Vitor Roque’s first goal since joining the team last month.
Facundo Pellistri made his debut for Granada in its 1-1 draw with Las Palmas after joining the hosts on loan from Manchester United. Granada played with 10 men from the 21st after Kamil Piatkowski was shown a red card.
Hugo Duro and Roman Yaremchuk scored as Valencia beat bottom side Almeria 2-1 and kept it winless through 23 rounds.
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