Jude Bellingham shines as Real Madrid beat Girona to move clear at top

By Sports Desk February 10, 2024

Jude Bellingham made it 20 goals for the season as he and Vinicius Junior teamed up to put Girona to the sword and send Real Madrid five points clear at the top of the LaLiga table.

The England midfielder scored twice with both set up by Vinicius, who had opened the scoring before Rodrygo wrapped up a 4-0 win with a fine run and finish. Substitute Joselu also missed a late penalty.

It was just surprise package Girona’s second defeat of the league campaign, with the first also coming at the hands of Carlo Ancelotti’s men, and it was every bit as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests.

With visiting head coach Michel banned from the touchline following his dismissal for leaving his technical area during last weekend’s draw with Real Sociedad, and opposite number Ancelotti forced to field a makeshift back four with injuries biting hard into his resources, there was an air of uncertainty around the Bernabeu Stadium as the game kicked off.

However, the fears of the locals were settled within six minutes when Vinicius picked up possession wide on the left, cut inside Ivan Martin and curled an unstoppable right-foot shot across keeper Paulo Gazzaniga and inside the far post.

With Toni Kroos dictating play, Madrid continued to look the more threatening and Girona skipper Juanpe was mightily relieved to concede a free-kick on the edge of the box rather than a penalty after he had rudely interrupted Eduardo Camavinga’s blistering 21st-minute run towards goal.

Federico Valverde curled the resulting set-piece straight into Gazzaniga’s arms, but there was little let-up in the home side’s efforts to build upon their encouraging start.

Bellingham dragged a 32nd-minute shot wide, but made amends within three minutes when he ran on to Vinicius’ superb ball behind Eric Garcia and rounded Gazzaniga to make it 2-0.

Vinicius scuffed wide after being played through as the whistle approached, but the sides headed for the dressing rooms with the hosts very much in the driving seat.

The visitors, who had offered little before the break, returned in determined mood and it took a last-ditch clearance by Ferland Mendy to cut out Miguel Gutierrez’s inviting cross as they finally started to make an impression going forward.

However, their hopes suffered a further blow within nine minutes when Vinicius cut in from the left and saw Gazzaniga parry his shot straight to Bellingham, who tapped into the empty net.

The Englishman’s evening ended prematurely with 57 minutes gone when, having earlier turned an ankle, he was replaced by Brahim Diaz.

His team did not feel his loss, however, and Rodrigo extended their lead within four minutes, accepting Vinicius’ pass before racing away to fire emphatically past Gazzaniga.

It should have been 5-0 at the death, but Joselu struck the post with a penalty awarded for Yan Couto’s foul on Arda Guler.

Related items

  • Carragher: Southgate the right man for England despite Euro 2024 final defeat Carragher: Southgate the right man for England despite Euro 2024 final defeat

    Jamie Carragher believes Gareth Southgate should remain in charge of England despite their Euro 2024 final defeat to Spain. 

    Southgate led England to back-to-back European Championship finals, but suffered the same outcome in both as the Three Lions' wait for an international honour goes on. 

    Under his tenure, England have reached more major tournament finals in four attempts (two) than they did in their first 23 appearances at the World Cup and Euros (one). 

    But the loss saw Southgate become the first manager in European Championship history to end on the losing side in two finals in what may be his final game in charge of the Three Lions. 

    But for much of England's time in Germany, Southgate has come under fire for his defensive approach, though only Walter Winterbottom (383) and Alf Ramsey (224) have overseen more England goals than his 213.

    It remains to be seen whether Southgate will continue in his role with the Three Lions moving forward, but Carragher insists he is the right man for the job. 

    "I'd like Gareth Southgate to stay, but I'd understand if he walks away. You think of the criticism he gets, it's way over the top," Carragher told Sky Sports. 

    "Who would want to take the England job? Considering you have to go and win the World Cup or next Euros to be deemed a success.

    "We aren't a nation that wins trophies, we aren't Brazil. We're not a team with a history - yes, we want to change that.

    "But I can't see many managers licking their lips and saying 'oh I'd like to take this on'.

    "The top managers in the game are managing in the Champions League, that's where they want to be," Carragher continued. 

    "International football is about the players, you can't go and buy players for your country, you have to work with what you've got.

    "Maybe a different manager could get more out of this group but you would have to win a tournament - something we've done once in about 100 years.

    "The best managers don't manage at international level. The Spain manager is a perfect example, most people would never have heard of him before this tournament. 

    "The problem Southgate has got, is people see him as an FA guy with no background of being successful or winning things.

    "The England job is not the ultimate. The top jobs are in the Premier League - that's where the money is.

    "Southgate knows international football, he's brilliant with the media, he knows the players - I'm not quite sure who this manager is that everyone is crying out for."

  • Kambwala departs Manchester United to join Villarreal Kambwala departs Manchester United to join Villarreal

    Manchester United have confirmed that defender Willy Kambwala has completed a move to Villarreal in a deal worth £9.9million. 

    Kambwala, who joined United from French Ligue 2 club Sochaux in 2020, has signed a five-year deal with the La Liga side. 

    United have a buy-back option for the next three years and a sizeable share of any sell-on fee.

    Kambwala had 11 months left on his contract at Old Trafford but refused terms to sign a new one for the Red Devils. 

    The 19-year-old made 10 Premier League appearances for the Erik ten Hag last season, with his debut coming in a 2-0 defeat to West Ham in December. 

    United's decision reflects the club's policy of cashing in on academy graduates who are not going to be first-team regulars or are coming out of contract and could leave for nothing. 

    Having confirmed the arrival of Joshua Zirkzee on Sunday, attention will now quickly turn to defensive reinforcements ahead of the 2024-25 season. 

    The club confirmed that experienced defender Jonny Evans had signed a new one-year contract last week, but are looking to sign two new centre-backs. 

    United have had two bids rejected by Everton for Jarrad Branthwaite, while they have also registered their interest in Matthijs De Ligt and Leny Yoro. 

  • Scaloni commends 'greatest player in history' Messi's Argentina commitment in Copa final Scaloni commends 'greatest player in history' Messi's Argentina commitment in Copa final

    Lionel Scaloni lauded Lionel Messi's commitment to Argentina despite being forced to withdraw from their Copa America success against Colombia. 

    Messi was substituted for the first time at the tournament since 2007, also against Colombia, having been unable to shake off an ankle injury sustained in the first half. 

    The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner was reduced to tears as he left the field of play in the 66th minute in what could potentially be his final appearance for La Albiceleste. 

    But that disappointment quickly turned to ecstasy as Lautaro Martinez's fifth tournament goal secured La Albiceleste a record 16th Copa crown. 

    Scaloni went on to detail Messi's desire to continue at the Hard Rock Stadium, saying that his Argentina teammates should take note of his commitment to the cause. 

    "Leo is the greatest player in history. He never wants to leave the pitch. He has a swollen ankle and he wants to keep on playing," Scaloni told reporters.

    "I prefer those players and his teammates see that, that he is 30-something-years-old and he's there and he wants to contribute.

    "He wants to play not because he is egotistical or selfish.

    "He wants to continue playing because he doesn't want to leave his teammates. He doesn't want to leave them on the pitch even when he's in that condition.

    "He doesn't feel well when he has to leave and he was born to be on the pitch."

    Messi's success was his third major tournament triumph in as many years, having previously led Argentina to the 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup. 

    Argentina's all-time leading goal scorer became the first player to play in five Copa finals (2007, 2015, 2016, 2021 and 2024), surpassing Javier Mascherano's previous record. 

    But that could be his last. Messi has hinted at international retirement on several occasions in recent months, admitting he was fighting his last battles at the Copa America.

    Both Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi called time on their respective international careers, although Otamendi will feature for Argentina at the Paris Olympics. 

    Midfielder Rodrigo De Paul commended the trio’s contributions to the national team, deeming their Copa America success a fitting setting for them to bow out on the international stage. 

    "I know Leo (Messi), I know how he thinks. He always wants to be there, but the fact that he's part of this team is the best thing for us," De Paul told TyC Sports.

    "With Fideo (Di Maria), I'm sad to see him go, but I'm also happy because he's one of the few that can say goodbye in this way as a World Cup and Copa champion."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.