Soccer-Real reclaim top spot with 3-0 win at Girona

Soccer Football - LaLiga - Girona v Real Madrid - Estadi Montilivi, Girona, Spain - September 30, 2023 Real Madrid's Rodrygo in action with Girona's Miguel Gutierrez REUTERS/Albert Gea

GIRONA, Spain (Reuters) -Real Madrid outclassed Girona 3-0 on Saturday to return to the top of the LaLiga standings, thanks to goals from Joselu, Aurelien Tchouameni and Jude Bellingham.

Real moved on to 21 points from eight games, one ahead of Barcelona, who beat Sevilla 1-0 at home on Friday. Girona dropped to third.

Girona made a strong start and could have scored twice in the first five minutes, as Yangel Herrera directed a header over the bar from close range before Viktor Tsyhankov headed an effort onto the post.

After weathering the hosts' dominant opening spell, Real took the lead in the 17th minute through Joselu's simple finish following Bellingham's delightful cross with the outside of his foot.

Tchouameni doubled Real's lead four minutes later when he cleverly wriggled free of his marker before rising highest to head Toni Kroos's corner into the net.

Bellingham should have scored in the 28th minute after he raced clear on goal, but his tame effort was excellently kept out by Girona keeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Kroos also tested Gazzaniga just before halftime, letting fly with a spectacular volley that was tipped over the bar by the Argentine.

Girona did not give up and continued to push forward after the break, almost scoring when Aleix Garcia crossed for Herrera, whose downward header bounced up and over the bar.

Their resistance was snuffed out in the 71st minute when Joselu's looping pass found Bellingham, who deftly steered home a volley to score his seventh goal in all competitions for Real and wrap up the win.

"I feel very good. I have freedom of movement and I'm enjoying football. Whenever I put on this shirt I always try to do my best," said Bellingham.

Real will also be buoyed by the performance of Vinicius Jr., who looked lively in his first start since returning from a thigh muscle injury, before being taken off in the 68th minute.

"It was a solid, convincing game. We defended well, we knew they could cause damage with the ball, they are a team that plays good football, it was important to defend well and we did that," coach Carlo Ancelotti told Real Madrid TV.

His side suffered a setback after a moment of madness from Nacho in added time as the defender leapt in with a high tackle on Portu, which was initially punished with a yellow card but overturned to red following a VAR review.

"Ancelotti is a gentleman. He told me he didn't understand Nacho's reaction at 0-3... He asked us for forgiveness. It's a tackle that doesn't make sense, with the result and with a minute left," Girona coach Michel Sanchez told DAZN.

Girona face Cadiz next Saturday and Real travel to Italy to face Serie A champions Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday before a home match against Osasuna next Saturday.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, additional reporting Angelica Medina, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)

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