Girona returns to the highest division of Spanish football

MADRID (AP) — This time they didn't break Girona's heart.After falling short on promotion opportunities in the past two seasons, the Catalan club r

MADRID (AP) — This time they didn’t break Girona’s heart.

After falling short on promotion opportunities in the past two seasons, the Catalan club returned to La Liga on Sunday to end a three-year stint in Spain’s second division.

Girona defeated Tenerife 3-1 in the second leg of the playoffs, seizing the third and last promotion ticket for next season. Girona came from suffering defeats with Elche and Rayo Vallecano in the last two finals for a ticket to the highest division of Spanish soccer.

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

Girona finished sixth, achieving the last playoff spot for promotion. They needed extra time to beat Eibar 2-1 in added time in the semi-finals, before drawing goalless in the first leg at home against Tenerife last week.

Striker Cristhian Stuani, who stayed with the team when they were relegated in 2019, scored the decisive goal in extra time against Eibar and opened the scoring on Sunday by converting a penalty just before halftime.

Girona was in the second division in 12 of the last 14 seasons, with participation in the first from 2017 to 2019.

Tenerife, a club from the Canary Islands that missed the opportunity to return to the first division since the 2009-10 campaign, leveled the score through Carlos Ruiz in the 59th minute. The visitors regained the lead less than 10 minutes later with an own goal from José León, with a ball that bounced off him and hit the post.

Arnau Martínez sealed the victory for Girona, and the return to the first division, with the third goal in the 80th minute.

Granada, Levante and Alavés were the teams that were relegated from the first division this season.