Vinícius leads Real Madrid's rout of Girona as Bellingham hurts foot
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Vinícius Júnior delivered a stellar all-round performance and Jude Bellingham scored twice before leaving with an injured left ankle as Real Madrid crushed title rival Girona 4-0 in the Spanish league on Saturday.
First-place Madrid opened up a five-point lead over second-place Girona, whose only two losses in an otherwise sensational season have both come against Carlo Ancelotti’s team.
Madrid’s perfect night had one blemish. Bellingham asked to be substituted early in the second half just moments after making it 3-0. It will have to be seen if the England midfielder will be ready for Tuesday’s game at Leipzig in the Champions League round of 16. Ancelotti said it was a sprained ankle.
While Bellingham took his league-leading tally to 16 goals and reached 20 goals overall since joining Madrid last summer, it was Vinícius who powered Madrid to the statement victory by playing a part in all of the hosts' goals.
The Brazil forward opened the scoring just six minutes after kickoff. He then assisted on goals for Bellingham and Rodrygo, and had a strike that was blocked by Girona’s goalkeeper into the path of Bellingham for an easy goal.
“He put in a top performance,” Ancelotti said about Vinícius, who has excelled in recent seasons while enduring repeated incidents of racist abuse by rival fans. “He’s the best in the world when he plays like that. Bellingham is the second best, Rodrygo the third, (Toni) Kroos the fourth, (Eduardo) Camavinga, (Federico) Valverde... It was easy to be in the Real Madrid dugout today.”
Since its 3-0 setback to Madrid in September, Girona had gone 15 rounds without a loss, a stretch that included the team leading the standings.
“If they keep this up I think it will be very difficult for (Madrid) to drop many points and let the league title get away,” said Girona coach Míchel Sánchez after watching his team get demolished while serving the first of a two-game suspension for protesting.
Vinícius had missed the previous game, a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid, because of back pain. But he was back in fine form when he used a couple of touches to widen his shooting angle in the midst of four defenders and curled a long strike in off the far post.
That opening goal came while Girona looked confident while it strung together passing combinations, but it would never recover after Vinícius helped his team double the lead in the 35th.
Vinícius saw his chance when Bellingham raced past, placing a perfectly weighted ball behind Girona’s Éric García for the England star to control and coolly dribble around goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga before scoring.
Right back Yan Couto, who like all of his Girona teammates has impressed this season, had a night to forget. Vinícius dribbled past him to reach the endline before his shot between the legs of García was poorly parried by Gazzaniga. Bellingham only had to push the ball into the open net in the 54th before he then asked to come off.
Vinícius stripped Couto of the ball before he set up Rodrygo to make it a rout in the 62nd.
“That was our best game of the season,” Vinícius said. “When we play like this we are hard to beat.”
Girona is partly owned by Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi ownership. Madrid, however, commands a spending advantage of 727 to 52 million euros ($782 to $56 million) for their teams. While that difference in budget has not meant much this season, it sure showed on Saturday when Madrid’s star power made Girona look out of depth as it moved toward reclaiming the title.
“We were not at the level we need to play at to face Real Madrid,” Míchel said. “But we knew that beforehand. When Real Madrid is at full steam we can’t keep up. This (loss) can help us improve, because when you face a rival like this it brings you down to earth. Nevertheless, we are having an incredible season.”
It could have been even worse for the visitors, but Madrid substitute Joselu Mato missed a spot kick in the final seconds after Couto committed a penalty by fouling substitute Arda Guler.
Madrid had to play with a makeshift pair of center backs – right back Dani Cavajal and midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni – with all four central defenders on its team injured.
Beside its coach, Girona was also without leading defender Daley Blind and midfielder Yángel Herrera with both suspended. Artem Dovbyk, Girona’s top scorer with 14 goals, started the game after being doubtful but had little impact.
Real Sociedad’s scoring woes worsened when it lost 1-0 to Osasuna at home, making it four consecutive games between the league and Copa del Rey that it has not scored a goal.
Next for Sociedad is a visit to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League’s round of 16.
Las Palmas downed Valencia 2-0 thanks to two late goals, while Villarreal drew 1-1 at Alaves.
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