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Football: Real Madrid beat Girona and take the lead in La Liga

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Football: Real Madrid beat Girona and take the lead in La Liga

Updated10. February 2024, 11:43 p.m.

Football: Real Madrid beat Girona and take the lead in La Liga

Thanks to a great match from their duo Jude Bellingham/Vinicius, the Merengues defeated their Catalan runner-up (4-0). They are now 5 points ahead of their evening opponent.

Vinicius (left) and Jude Bellingham (right) played for Real Madrid on Saturday night against Girona.

AFP

Carried by their Bellingham/Vinicius duo, Real Madrid crushed their runner-up Girona (4-0) on Saturday at the Santiago Bernabéu during the clash of the 24th day, to take a 5-point lead at the top of La Liga. Already victorious in the first leg (0-3), the Merengue club signed a new collective demonstration and brought back to reality the small Catalan club, which hoped to offer itself in the capital the right to continue dreaming of a first title champion of Spain.

Relegated 5 lengths from its evening opponent after this second defeat of the season, Girona (2nd, 56 points) will now have to achieve a flawless performance and hope for missteps from Real to possibly become the first club to steal the crown from three greats of Spain (Real Barça, Atlético) since Valencia 20 years ago.

“You have to recognize when the rival is stronger. […] We saw a great Madrid this evening (editor’s note: Saturday). If they continue like this, I think it will be very complicated to see them lose points and not be champions,” said Girona coach Michel at a press conference. “It’s a learning defeat, which puts us in our place. Our level is not that of Real Madrid, we still have one or two steps to go to be at that level,” he added.

“Our level is not that of Real Madrid, we still have one or two steps to go to be at that level”

Michel, Girona coach

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Bellingham shines but comes out affected

The Catalan supporters, who came in large numbers to the capital for what the Spanish press already considered to be the championship final, were immediately stunned by a superb curling strike from Vinicius Junior from 20m (6th, 1-0). Totally stifled and outclassed in the duels, the Girona players broke their teeth against an unprecedented Madrid defense with Tchouaméni and Carvajal in the axis, in the absence of the four professional central players (Militao, Alaba, Nacho and Rüdiger). They then suffered the tactical and technical domination imposed by Carlo Ancelotti’s men, carried by a Camavinga/Bellingham/Vinicius trio of great evenings.

The 20-year-old English prodigy, launched deep by an outside foot from his Brazilian friend, cleared Gazzaniga to finish in the empty goal (36th, 2-0). Enough to make the Beatles’ hit “Hey Jude” resonate again in his new garden. The duo struck a third time after returning from the locker room, Vinicius playing Couto on his left side, before Gazzaniga pushed back at the feet of Bellingham who didn’t ask for so much (54th, 3-0). The 15th and 16th goals from the English international, who alone takes the lead in the “goleadors” ranking ahead of the Ukrainian opposite Artem Dovbyk, completely muzzled by Tchouaméni and Carvajal.

Hit in the left ankle in the first period, “Belligol” immediately gave way to Brahim Diaz, hastening to surround his foot with ice after an ovation from the Bernabéu. An image likely to worry the Iberian media, three days before the round of 16 first leg of the Champions League against Leipzig.

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La Real Sociedad stall encore

Difficult until now, Rodrygo concluded the Merengues’ stroll on their lawn by scoring a fourth goal with a powerful strike from the right (61st, 4-0). His replacement Joselu missed the “manita” ball, a sign of ultimate humiliation in Spain, by missing his penalty in the 90th minute.

Beaten by its neighbor Osasuna (1-0) earlier in the afternoon, Real Sociedad went on to a fourth match without a victory and without any goals scored, in all competitions. 7th with 37 points, the Basque club is already 11 lengths behind the 4th qualifying place for the Champions League, four days before its round of 16 first leg against PSG. Real Sociedad is now followed by Las Palmas (8th, 35 points), who won at home against Valencia (2-0).

(AFP)

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