Girona back in La Liga after beating Tenerife in promotion playoff
MADRID (AP) — There was no heartbreak for Girona this time.
After falling just short of promotion the last two seasons, the Catalan club made it back to the top flight on Sunday to end a three-year spell in the Spanish second division.
Girona defeated Tenerife 3-1 in the second leg of the promotion playoffs, earning the third and final spot in the top tier next season. Girona was coming off losses to Elche and Rayo Vallecano in the last two playoff finals.
Almería and Valladolid, the club owned by former Brazil striker Ronaldo, had earned the automatic promotion berths by finishing in the top two in the regular season.
Girona was only sixth, grabbing the final spot in the promotion playoffs. It needed extra time to defeat Eibar 2-1 on aggregate in the semifinals before getting past Tenerife after a 0-0 draw at home in the first leg last week.
“A lot of memories are coming back,” Girona forward Cristhian Stuani said. “There was a lot of sacrifice. We tried over and over again. Three finals in a row. You can never give up, we showed that today.”
Stuani, who stayed with Girona after the team’s relegation in 2019, had scored the decisive goal in extra time against Eibar, and he opened the scoring on Sunday by converting a penalty kick just before halftime.
“It was very tough (to take the penalty),” Stuani said. “I kept thinking about what could happen.”
Girona was in the second division for 12 of the last 14 seasons, with consecutive appearances in the top flight from 2017-19.
Tenerife, the Canary Islands club that missed a chance to return to the main tier for the first time since 2009-10, equalized with a goal by Carlos Ruiz in the 59th. The visitors retook the lead less than 10 minutes later with an own-goal by José León, with the ball deflecting off his body off a cross and going in by the near post.
Arnau Martínez sealed Girona’s victory — and the coveted first-division spot — with the third goal in the 80th.
Granada, Levante and Alavés were relegated from the first division this season.