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Girona Stun Real Madrid in 2nd Half to Win 2-1 in 2019 La Liga Match

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2019

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 17: Gareth Bale of Real Madrid reacts after Portu of Girona (not pictured) scores his team's second goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Girona FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on February 17, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid lost ground in La Liga on Sunday after relegation-threatened Girona came from behind to shock them 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Casemiro gave Real the lead after 25 minutes, when he rose to head home Toni Kroos' cross following a corner.

Marcelo thought he'd made it 2-0 shortly before the break, but his effort was correctly disallowed for offside following a VAR consultation.

Cristhian Stuani levelled proceedings from the penalty spot in the 65th minute after Sergio Ramos was penalised for blocking Aleix Garcia's goal-bound shot with his arm.

Girona were in front 10 minutes later thanks to Portu, who beat a sleeping Marcelo to head home at the back post after Thibaut Courtois had kept out Anthony Lozano's effort.

Ramos was sent off in the 90th minute for his second yellow card, after he attempted an overhead kick while Pedro Alcala was heading clear a loose ball.

The slip-up leaves Real nine points behind Barcelona, following the Blaugrana's 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Girona ended a run of six consecutive losses in all competitions—including twice to Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarter-final—and opened up a gap of four points above the drop zone.

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Ramos Red Card Shows Absence of Leadership at Real

Ramos has played a key role in Los Blancos winning three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles since taking over as club captain in 2015, and he has often led by example with some key goals and performances.

However, Sunday's collapse against Girona exposed the deficiencies in his captaincy and the lack of leaders alongside him in Real's squad.

Although Girona had threatened at times on the break in the first half, Real went into the interval comfortable and should have been able to see out the match from there.

However, they appeared to lack concentration in the second half, and should have been behind before Stuani's penalty when Garcia blasted over from seven yards.

Los Blancos failed to heed the warning signs, however, and Ramos soon found himself in the position of desperately blocking a shot with his hands, for which Tom Allnutt of Agence France-Presse felt he was fortunate to remain on the pitch:

Tom Allnutt @TomAllnuttAFP

Madrid sleepwalking through this half and now Girona level. Stuani penalty. Ramos lucky not to be sent off for the handball. 1-1, 64.

Having fallen behind, Real were sorely in need of some inspiration from their biggest players, but matters only got worse when Portu, having just hit the post, put Girona ahead.

In his attempts to drag Real back into the contest, Ramos only succeeded in making it more difficult and it's far from the first time he has let his side down:

ESPN UK @ESPNUK

Sergio Ramos has been sent off in the 90th minute. This is his 20th career La Liga red card 😳 https://t.co/FyPqRLl2K4

Ramos' leadership has proven effective on plenty of occasions, but he'll always run the risk of falling afoul of referees and he perhaps struggles to inspire the team in matches against lesser opponents.

Real have become more vulnerable against less illustrious opposition in recent years, per the Spanish Football Podcast:

The Spanish Football Podcast @tsf_podcast

To give some context: before that, only Barça and Atleti had beaten RM at the Bernabeu in the league in the previous 5 years...

Los Blancos have now lost seven matches this season, the most defeats they've suffered in La Liga since losing 10 times in the 2008-09 campaign.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Real have adopted a policy of signing youngsters in recent years—since the 2015-16 campaign, their oldest outfield signing has been 25-year-old Mariano Diaz—and are struggling for leadership, which often goes hand-in-hand with experience.

Until more leaders can emerge or be recruited into their squad, these struggles may only continue.

                           

What's Next?

Real travel to Levante in La Liga next Sunday, while Girona host Real Sociedad a day later.

                    

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