Real Madrid Goes 5 Points Clear, Bellingham Nets Brace—-Jude Bellingham became the first midfielder this century to score 15 league goals in a season for Real Madrid as they put four past their closest La Liga rivals to take a huge stride towards the title.
With his first half strike at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night Bellingham doubled Madrid’s advantage over Girona after man-of-the-match Vinicus opened the scoring.
He tapped in a second after the break before going off with an ankle problem that Madrid will now hope does not keep them out of their Champions League last-16 game next week against RB Leipzig.
When he got his second and hobbled off ‘Hey Jude’ wasn’t just bouncing off the noisy South End of the stadium, it was reverberating around the whole arena.
When he turned up last summer the comparisons with Zinedine Zidane seemed outlandish but the Frenchman never scored more than nine in the league in any one season.
Bellingham has 16 now with most of the second half of the campaign left.
This felt like a title decider with Girona just two points behind Real Madrid in the table – a football miracle at this stage of the season bearing in mind this is only their fourth season in the top flight.
They found Madrid too hot to handle however with the excellent Bellingham not even the best player on the pitch for the home side. That accolade went to Vinicius.
He set up the first on seven minutes inflicting on Girona the first goal they have conceded from outside the area all season.
He missed the last Real Madrid game pulling out late with a pain in the neck in the warm-up. Now the pain was all Girona’s as he cut in from the left and put the ball into the top corner from the edge of the area.
There was a square of defenders around him with a Girona player on every corner but they were all spectators as his shot flew in. The visitors had bossed the opening exchanges but from nothing Vinicius had conjured the opening goal of the game.
Kylian Mbappe’s arrival to Madrid this summer is starting to feel inevitable but he might have to play through the middle instead of in his favoured starting position coming off the left onto his right foot because Madrid, in Vinicius, have someone who does that as well as anyone in the world.
And if Mbappe plays through the middle what to do with Bellingham? He got the brilliant second charging on to pass from Vinicus that Luka Modric would have been proud of. He had Yan Couto in front of him but the Brazilian bent the ball around him and perfectly into the path of the galloping England midfielder who had split the centre of Girona’s defence with his run. Bellingham dropped a shoulder and rounded keeper Paulo Gazzaniga before scoring from a tight angle.
The early goals took the pressure off a Madrid starting eleven that didn’t contain a single central defender. Ever since Antonio Rudiger went, juggernaut style, through Mason Greenwood, and came off worse than the Getafe winger, he has been struggling and he did not make the starting line-up. With David Alaba and Eder Militao also out long-term and Nacho carrying a knock, Carlo Ancelotti had to pair full-back Dani Carvajal and midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni in the centre of the back four but they were untroubled in the first half.
Girona had their first effort on target at the restart when Miguel Gutierrez got forward from left-back. The former Madrid youth team player – who Madrid still have an 8m euros option on – gave Andriy Lunin something to do with a dangerous cross that he palmed away.
Savinho, the Brazilian winger who Manchester City have signed for the end of the season, then skipped away from Lucas Vazquez as Michel’s team continued to show more in the opening minutes of the second period than in all of the first.
Girona have been comeback kings this season; they have no shortage of resilience but against this much Bellingham and Vinicius it was all in vain. Bellingham had twisted his left ankle earlier in the game and was about to be taken off by a concerned Ancelotti but he still had one more goal in him.
Vinicus was again surrounded by Girona defenders, this time on the right wing, and again he got away from them. His crossed was blocked by Gazzaniga but Bellingham tapped it in from close range.
He was immediately replaced by Brahim Diaz and Hey Jude rang around the stadium as he went off blowing kisses to the Madrid public he has had in the palm of his hands since his first game.
Madrid were just as dangerous despite losing Bellingham. He was having his ankle bandaged on the bench as Rodrygo swept forward, benefiting from Vinicus winning the ball back, to score the fourth.
Joselu missed a penalty with the last kick of the game after Arda Guler had been fouled. Girona had long since just wanted it to be over and when the penalty came back off the post it was. So, quite possibly, is the Spanish title race.