BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Jude Bellingham gave Girona a reality check on Saturday after he led Real Madrid to a 3-0 away victory over the early-season sensation in the Spanish league.
Girona had entered the round undefeated and on a six-game winning streak that had taken it to the top of the standings for the first time in the club’s history.
But Bellingham put Madrid on course for the win by producing a superb pass for Joselu Mato’s 17th-minute opener. After Aurélien Tchouaméni quickly doubled the advantage, Bellingham rounded off the scoring with his league-leading sixth goal in eight rounds.
“It was an important win,” Bellingham said. “We made a statement of intent to La Liga — three goals and a clean sheet against a team that was doing very well.”
Madrid climbed over Girona and Barcelona to the top of the standings. Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid now leads Barcelona by one point and Girona by two.
Girona, which is partly controlled by Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi ownership, had the early initiative until Bellingham again showed why Madrid spent big to acquire the 20-year-old England player from Borussia Dortmund this summer.
Girona twice threatened to score in the opening five minutes when Yangel Herrera headed over the bar and Artem Dovbyk headed off the post.
Then it was Bellingham’s turn to use the outside edge of his right boot to bend a pass around three defenders and connect with Joselu at the far post where the striker fired home. Goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga got his gloves on the shot but couldn’t keep it out.
“That pass by Bellingham was spectacular and that goal hurt us a lot because until then we were playing well,” Girona coach Míchel Sánchez said. “Madrid was full-on today and that opener made us realize how tough the game was going to be.”
Bellingham said his pass was inspired by teammate Luka Modric, the veteran midfielder who was on Madrid’s bench.
“I’ve been watching Modrić every day for three months,” he said. “I just want to be creative. It was a good goal because it took the pressure off us that they put on us at the start.”
Tchouaméni added a second goal in the 21st when he was left enough room to head in Toni Kroos’ corner kick.
Girona saw a chance to get back into the game five minutes after halftime when David López got his head on a corner, only for Kepa Arrizabalaga to swat the ball to safety.
Míchel sent on more attacking players and Girona pushed forward, but Madrid never had trouble defending its area and was eventually exposed in defense.
Joselu returned the assist for Bellingham in the 71st when the former Espanyol striker found Bellingham to score after a three-on-two counterattack.
Madrid lost defender Nacho Fernández in injury time when he saw a direct red for a studs-first tackle on Girona’s Cristian “Portu” Portugués. Portu had to be carried off on a stretcher. The foul led to a brief confrontation between players.
Ancelotti apologized to Girona for the foul that he called “senseless.” Míchel said that Portu will undergo tests to determine the extent of his injury.
Madrid visits Napoli on Tuesday in the Champions League.
Real Sociedad rolled to a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Country’s biggest derby.
Robin Le Normand, Takefusa Kubo and Mikel Oyarzabal scored for the hosts, which moved ahead of Bilbao and into fourth place.
Radamel Falcao scored from a retaken stoppage-time penalty to snatch a 2-2 draw for Rayo Vallecano with Mallorca.
Predrag Rajkovic saved the initial spot kick taken by Falcao, but the referee ruled that Mallorca’s goalkeeper had left his line too early. Falcao didn’t squander his second chance.
BAENA SENT OFF
Ten-man Villarreal salvaged a 0-0 draw at Getafe after midfielder Álex Baena was sent off with a direct red card in the 24th for elbowing an opponent. Baena scored in his debut for Spain earlier in September.
Filip Jörgensen made several saves to preserve the point for Villarreal.
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