Real Madrid returned to the top of the La Liga standings on Saturday after a 3-0 victory against Girona, which was inspired by the play of Jude Bellingham. Real Madrid displayed both grit and grace in their performance.
Girona was in the rare position of leading the league going into the weekend, but champions Barcelona overtook them by defeating Sevilla on Friday. Real then deposed their rivals at the top of the league with a good victory on Catalan turf. Girona’s loss dropped them to second place.
The goals scored by Joselu and Aurelien Tchouameni in the first half were enough to deflate Girona’s balloon, and after that, the record-setting 35-time champions of La Liga kept the courageous newcomers at a safe distance.
The slick Bellingham scored the winning goal for Madrid with twenty minutes left to play, so ensuring the club’s triumph and continuing his own dazzling run of goalscoring success.
Late in the game, Madrid defender Nacho was sent a red card for a nasty high tackle that he committed on Portu, who had to leave the field hurt.
The team led by Michel won 4-2 against Real Madrid at home in the previous season, and their supporters hoped they could repeat the feat. However, they ran against a team that was eager to stop them.
The City Football Group-owned side are prospering in just their fourth season in the Spanish first division and were undefeated in their first seven games, but their renowned guests come with a point to prove about the natural order of things, and they ended that run.
In the wake of Los Blancos’ loss to Atletico Madrid in the derby the previous weekend, coach Carlo Ancelotti decided to strengthen Madrid’s defence by putting Eduardo Camavinga in at left back. Camavinga was brought in after Atletico Madrid had too much success down the sides.
After making a brief appearance off the bench during Wednesday’s victory against Las Palmas, the head coach decided to give Vinicius Junior his first start since returning from injury.
Girona started the game in a confident manner, hoping to make the most of the rowdy environment at their comparatively tiny but highly energised Montilivi stadium.
In the first five minutes of the game, they came close to scoring when Yangel Herrera’s header went just wide of the goal and Viktor Tsygankov’s shot struck the post during an early attack.
Nevertheless, Madrid managed to take the lead against the run of play, which halted the progress of the home team.
After Bellingham set up the Spain striker with a beautiful outside-of-the-boot cross, Joselu was able to score the game-winning goal from close range.
The shot taken by the striker on loan was directed squarely at custodian Paulo Gazzaniga, who did not have the reflexes to prevent the goal from being scored.
After another four minutes, the away team scored their second goal when Aurelien Tchouameni scored a free header off of a corner kick taken by Toni Kroos. Tchouameni was overjoyed to get his first goal for Madrid since joining the club in 2022.
When sent in on goal, Bellingham was not as clinical as he could have been, and Gazzaniga was able to deny him and subsequently tip a Kroos effort over the crossbar.
There is no escape.
Kepa Arrizabalaga had to make a diving save to keep a header from David Lopez out of the net as Girona got off to a good start in the second half.
In the midst of Madrid’s sustained offensive pressure, Tchouameni was involved in a collision with Herrera within his own penalty area. Despite the call for a penalty, Tchouameni was not penalised, and Gazzaniga was able to save Bellingham’s shot from the other end.
But this season, only a handful of clubs have been able to hold the England international at bay, and Girona was one of them; in the end, they were defeated.
After a shot by Joselu was stopped by Gazzaniga, Bellingham capitalised on the rebound to score the goal that ended any possibility of a comeback. Bellingham leads the division in scoring with six goals.
The midfielder celebrated in his now-customary manner, with his arms spread wide, which drew the ire of Girona supporters to a lesser extent than they could have otherwise.
In the dying minutes of the match, Nacho was sent off for his violent tackle on winger Portu, which led to a short altercation amongst the players.
The current standings see Madrid in first place with 21 points after eight games, one point ahead of Barcelona, who are one point ahead of Girona.
Later on Saturday, fourth-place Athletic Bilbao will travel to face rivals Real Sociedad in the Basque Country.