Girona back in Spanish 1st division after beating Tenerife

There was no heartache for Girona this time.

After narrowly missing out on promotion for the past two seasons, the Catalan club returned to the top flight on Sunday to end a three-year spell in the Spanish second tier.

Girona beat Tenerife 3-1 in the second leg of the promotion’s playoffs, claiming the third and final spot in the top tier next season. Girona had just suffered defeats to Elche and Rayo Vallecano in the last two playoff finals.

Almería and Valladolid, the club owned by former Brazilian striker Ronaldo, had earned the automatic promotion spots by finishing in the top two in the regular season.

Girona were only sixth, grabbing the last promotion play-off spot. It took extra time to beat Eibar 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals before overtaking Tenerife after a 0-0 draw at home in the first leg last week.

“A lot of memories come back,” said Girona striker Cristhian Stuani. “There were a lot of sacrifices. We tried again and again. Three finals in a row. You can never give up, we showed that today.”

Stuani, who remained at Girona after the team’s relegation in 2019, scored the decisive goal in injury time against Eibar, and he opened the scoring on Sunday by converting a penalty just before half-time.

“It was very difficult (to take the penalty),” Stuani said. “I kept thinking about what might happen.”

Girona have been in the second tier for 12 of the last 14 seasons, with back-to-back appearances in the top flight from 2017-2019.

Tenerife, the Canarian club which has missed a chance to return to the top flight since 2009-10, equalized thanks to a Carlos Ruiz goal in the 59th. The visitors regained the lead less than 10 minutes later with an own goal from José León, the ball deflecting off his body from a cross and entering through the near post.

Arnau Martínez sealed victory for Girona – and the coveted First Division spot – with the third goal in the 80th minute.

Granada, Levante and Alavés have been relegated from the first division this season.


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Lynn A. Saleh