Commentary

Celebrations for Girona's win over Real Madrid across Catalonia, but no cava in the locker room

With the backdrop of heightened Spanish-Catalan political tensions, tiny Girona pulled one of the biggest upsets in the recent history of La Liga when it beat Real Madrid, 2-1.

Sunday's victory -- before a crowd of 13,382, the largest ever at the Estadi Montilivi -- was the first by a La Liga newcomer over Real Madrid in 27 years.

"Girona's victory over one of the great teams in the world is an example and a reference for many situations," tweeted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

But Girona coach Pablo Machin did not want to treat the victory as anything unusual.

"Obviously, there was a celebration, but I haven't seen any bottles of cava," he said in reference to the Spanish sparkling wine. "This is a mature team and we knew that we had a chance to beat a great team. We demonstrated our maturity by not showing excessive euphoria after the whistle."

Real Madrid isn't first big club Girona has faced this season, its first ever at the top of Spanish soccer after 84 seasons in the lower divisions. It tied Atletico Madrid, 2-2, on opening day, only lost to Sevilla, 1-0, and fell to Catalan rival Barcelona, 3-0, after conceding two own goals.

The reality also is that Real Madrid hasn't been playing very well. The defeat dropped the defending La Liga and Champions League champions to third place, eight points behind Barcelona after 10 games.

Madrid sports daily Marca noted that "Madrid put its slip in the ballot box, voting no to the title.” There were a lot of political references on both sides of the Catalonia vs. Spain issue. “Madrid’s panic was sporting!” wrote Girona daily El Punt Avui. “It wasn’t the politics; it was the colossal XI they had before them.”

The game, Madrid's first this season in Catalonia, came as the Spanish government tried to mute the Catalan independence movement. A declaration of independence was approved by a narrow majority of regional lawmakers on Friday.

The Girona-Real Madrid game was played without any major incidents.

"You have to know how to differentiate sport from politics," said Machin. "People talk and talk about how to better themselves. Politicians, if they are good, they have to make things better for the people."
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