Real Madrid slumped on Sunday to a shock 2-1 defeat at Girona, one of the cities of Catalonia, that has declared a still-born independence from the authorities in Madrid.
The separatists in Barcelona quickly capitalised on Madrid’s loss.
“Girona FC’s victory against one of the greatest teams in the world is an example and a benchmark for many situations,” Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, who was deposed by the Spanish government as president of the regional parliament on Friday, posted on Twitter.
Isco opened scoring for Madrid in the first half. But goals from Cristhian Stuani and Portu in four second-half minutes canceled out Isco’s opener as Real fell eight points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona after just 10 games.
“We know we can turn this around. We will have better days and our rivals will lose points over the course of the season,” insisted coach Zinedine Zidane.
“There is nothing more we can do, and we know that sooner or later things will turn. There is a long way to go and I am not worried.”
Chants in favour of independence and “freedom” reverberated around the 13,500 capacity Montlivi in the 17th minute as is common at Girona and Barcelona home matches to mark the fall of Catalonia in the Spanish War of Succession in 1714.
However, with plenty of Madrid fans present, there were also plenty of Spanish flags on show.
In their first ever match against the European champions, Girona looked keen to make a mark from the outset and were desperately unlucky not to go in front when Pablo Maffeo’s cross came back off the inside of the post 12 minutes in.
Seconds later, though, the ball was in the Girona net as Madrid broke immediately upfield and Isco tapped home the rebound after Bono parried Cristiano Ronaldo’s initial effort.
Girona continued to dominate the game and hit the woodwork again before half-time when Portu’s flicked header looped over Kiko Casilla and back off the inside of the post.
“We played very well and hit the post twice in the first-half,” said match winner Portu.
“We knew that if we continued to press them hard as a team then you get your rewards in football.”
Real suffered an injury blow days before they travel to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League on Wednesday as Raphael Varane was replaced by Nacho at half-time due to a muscular problem.
And the French international’s presence at the heart of the Madrid defence was badly missed as Stuani jinked past Nacho to fire Girona deservedly level nine minutes into the second-half.
Just four minutes later, Girona were in dreamland as Maffeo’s driven cross was flicked home by Portu and the goal was allowed to stand despite the striker appearing to be in an offside position.
“We can’t make excuses,” Madrid midfielder Casemiro told BeIN Sports Spain.
“We have to keep our heads because it is a difficult moment.
“We still have a chance but we need to play better and work harder. Madrid are always obliged to win.”