Soccer-Substitute Pedri earns Barcelona 1-0 win at Girona

Soccer Football - LaLiga - Girona v FC Barcelona - Estadi Montilivi, Girona, Spain - January 28, 2023 FC Barcelona's Pedri celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Albert Gea

GIRONA (Reuters) - Pedri celebrated his 100th match for Barcelona as he came off the bench and scored from close range in the second-half to give the LaLiga leaders a hard-fought 1-0 win at Girona on Saturday.

The 20-year-old scored in the 61st minute after the goalkeeper failed to hold on to a Jordi Alba cross following a series of other mistakes by the Girona defence.

Barcelona are top of the standings on 47 points, six ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid, who have a game in hand and will host third-placed Real Sociedad on Sunday. Girona are 12th on 21 points.

With forwards Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres suspended and midfielder Pedri recovering from muscle discomfort, Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez opted to rotate his side on a chilly afternoon at Montilivi.

He rested key players such as Andreas Christensen and Alejandro Balde, while former Manchester City defender Eric Garcia started for the first time in more than three months.

Pedri, however, was called into action sooner than he would have expected after Ousmane Dembele was substituted with what looked like a muscle injury in the 25th minute.

Despite having almost 70% of possession in the first half, Barcelona struggled to break the deadlock against Girona’s low block.

It was not until the 40th minute that Barca had their first shot on target, when Pedri’s tame strike was easily held by the goalkeeper.

Girona were remarkably disciplined in defence, remaining compact in a deep position, comfortably defending the space in front of goal to frustrate Barcelona’s forwards.

Pedri eventually broke the deadlock, pouncing as keeper Paulo Gazzaniga could not gather a low cross, leaving the Barca midfielder free to tap home at the far post.

Girona had an Arnau Martinez effort ruled-out in the 65th minute and wasted a golden opportunity to equalise in the 88th when Ivan Martin missed a sitter from close range as they made a late push for a point.

Barcelona finished the match with only three shots on target, having made the most of their only clear opportunity.

"I believe that in these games you have to win it in any way possible," Barcelona defender Jules Kounde told DAZN.

"It is true that we can play better, but in these games winning is very important."

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Toby Davis)

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