Madrid stunned by Girona, sees Barcelona increase its lead

MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid was stunned by struggling Girona on Sunday, losing 2-1 at home to see Barcelona extend its lead at the top of the Spanish league standings.

Real Madrid was coming off a five-match winning streak in the league, but it wasn’t able to get past its relegation-threatened rival at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, conceding twice in the second half after taking a 1-0 halftime lead.

Girona hadn’t won in 13 matches in all competitions and was coming off six straight losses. The Catalan club hadn’t won in the league since November and had entered the weekend one point from the relegation zone.

The surprise loss dropped Madrid to third place and left the team nine points behind Barcelona, which on Saturday edged Valladolid 1-0 with a penalty kick converted by Lionel Messi. The result at Camp Nou Stadium ended a three-game winless run for the Girona neighbor in all competitions.

Atletico Madrid returned to second place after defeating Rayo Vallecano 1-0 on Saturday to halt a two-game losing streak in the league.

Girona, which had lost twice to Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey last month, being outscored 7-3, moved to 15th place in the league standings, four points from the relegation zone.

Madrid had won seven of its last eight matches in all competitions, with the only setback a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. It had cut Barcelona’s lead from 10 points to six in recent rounds after seeing its rival go through a slump.

Coach Santiago Solari made some changes to the starting lineup on Sunday, leaving Vinicius Junior and Gareth Bale on the bench after they started midweek in the 2-1 win at Ajax in the round of 16 of the Champions League. Marcelo, who had been left out of the Ajax game in the Netherlands, played from the beginning at the Bernabeu.

Casemiro opened the scoring with a firm header from near the penalty spot in the 25th minute after a cross by Toni Kroos, and Girona equalized with a penalty kick converted by Cristhian Stuani in the 65th after a handball by Sergio Ramos inside the area.

Girona had a golden chance to equalize about five minutes before the penalty, when Aleix Garcia’s close-range shot went over the crossbar. The visitors moved in front with a 75th-minute header by Portu after Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois initially saved a shot by Anthony Lozano.

Portu had hit the post a few minutes earlier with a booming shot from inside the area.

Solari put on Vinicius Junior and Bale in the second half and Madrid pressed through the end to try to reverse the deficit. Courtois made it to the area in a last-gasp attempt, but couldn’t get enough on his header, sending the ball just wide of the post.

Ramos was sent off in 90th after receiving a second yellow card.