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Keeper Gazzaniga shines as Girona reclaim top spot at Celta

Girona reclaimed top spot in LaLiga after a 1-0 victory at Rafa Benitez’s Celta Vigo on Sunday, thanks to a Portu strike early in the first half the heroics of goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, who excelled for the unexpected league leaders.

Girona sit alone at the summit with 55 points, one ahead of Real Madrid, who have a match in hand and face Getafe on Thursday. Real and Girona will clash at the Bernabeu in two weeks.

Barcelona are a distant third on 44 points after enduring a traumatic 5-3 loss to visitors Villarreal on Saturday before their coach Xavi Hernandez revealed he was stepping down as manager at the end of the season.

After being knocked out of the Copa del Rey in a 3-2 loss at Mallorca in midweek, Girona bounced back and played a solid match at Vigo versus a Celta side who are struggling at 16th in the standings, just above the relegation zone.

Celta started the game on top and almost scored in the 18th minute with an Óscar Mingueza thunderous strike from range that Gazzaniga thwarted, palming it round the post to a corner.

Girona hit back two minutes later, when Portu pounced on a Miguel Gutiérrez low cross to clear a defender with a quick cut before unleashing an unstoppable close-range strike past goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

From then on, Gazzaniga worked his magic to produce a superb performance to keep out the home side and help secure the three points.

He made an outstanding reflex save to palm a Jorgen Strand Larsen header from close range off the cross bar and denied two Anastasios Douvikas efforts one-on-one before the break.

In the second half, he held on to a Luca de la Torre strike from range, before Girona started to take control of the action, slowed down the pace and managed to protect their narrow victory.

After the game, Girona coach Míchel shot down any rumours linking him to the Barça job and downplayed his team’s chances of winning the LaLiga title.

“I am focused on Girona. Xavi the person who knows FC Barcelona best,” he said. “I have a contract until 2026, so nothing. Xavi is Barça.

“I think the three points today bring us closer to qualifying for Europe. La Real [Sociedad] dropped points, Barça as well. Can we dream of reaching the Champions League? Let’s see after six more games when there are 10 to play.

“If we are in the race for the Champions League and close to this Real Madrid, maybe, but seeing how Madrid are playing, winning games easily, it’s going to be really hard.”

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