Everyone remembers their first date, their first job, perhaps even the first player you got printed on the back of your football shirt. Moments like these are flashpoints; memories that never disappear, serving for nostalgic purposes acting always as a reference to compare the present to the past and the way things used to be.
So in the words of Pulp, Do You Remember The First Time? In the case of Girona fans they’ll struggle to remember a much worse time after their side picked up an historic first three points in La Liga with a 1-0 victory over Malaga. For what this time last year would have been nothing more than a far-fetched pipe dream as the Catalan club started their 2016/17 second division season with draws against Almeria, Sevilla Atlético and even a defeat at the hands of Real Valladolid, last weekend’s win over the Costa Del Sol side was so much more than getting the club’s first three points on the board.
Not only did such a result mark the dawn of a new era for the Blanquivermell especially given recent news confirming Manchester City’s significant financial stake in the club but earning three points against a side widely recognised as a well established La Liga team has made a real statement – if you like a signal of intent of Girona’s short and long term plans in consolidating their position amongst the very best in the top tier of Spanish football.
In terms of the side’s performance against their Southern Spain rivals, Pablo Machin’s men echoed their mid-season form of the previous campaign in producing a largely dominant showing at the Montilivi. In allowing the visitors a greater share of possession, Girona were certainly able to make the most of their time on the ball after breaking down Malaga attacks with three times as many aerial battles won during the game.
Starting with a familiar three at the back which the club have seemingly adopted at home but yet could still be subject to change following the international break as Girona begin to see how they fare on the road in La Liga, the width and versatility of both Pablo Maffeo and Aday Benitez either flank has proved a productive attacking outlet for the team thus far. The solid central midfield pairing of the ever reliable Pere Pons and Alex Granell has meant no opportunities for the talented Douglas Luiz or Aleix Garcia, a true testament just how well both players have performed after being trusted by Machin following their promotion winning exploits last season.
The plaudits from Saturday’s historic victory however will most certainly be awarded to central defender Pedro Alcala and deservedly so. As well as the man who got the all important goal for Girona with a close range finish within the first half proving all that was needed to hand the hosts all three points, Alcala stood out as many supporter’s man of the match for several reasons other than just the goal. With both the second highest number of dribbles along with attacking midfielder Portu and second highest number of passes made by a home player with a 74% pass success throughout the game, Alcala impressed throughout alongside Marc Muniesa – a solid defensive option with an eye for going forward when necessary.
For Girona meanwhile, perhaps the international break has come just at the wrong time after such a promising start to life in the top flight. It is difficult to see a temporary break in play for international football doing little to quell the optimism amongst the club’s supporters but whether it has an effect on the pitch most notably with the momentum of the Catalan team’s players remains to be seen. A visit to Northern Spain to the iconic San Mames for the club’s first ever away fixture in La Liga against Athletic Club is in store ahead of a difficult end to the month which sees Girona challenged by the likes of Sevilla and local rivals Barcelona.
But if Girona can start September in the way they have approached life in the top tier of Spanish football so far then they stand every chance of not coming away empty handed against the likes of Sevilla and Barca helping the club establish themselves in La Liga for the season ahead and beyond.