Real Madrid

Real Madrid moved into second place after a 2-0 victory over Las Palmas. Image by RealMadriden/X

Real Madrid beats Palmas as underdog Girona tops La Liga table

Real Madrid moved into second place after a 2-0 victory over Las Palmas while Girona, a Catalan underdog, claimed the top spot in La Liga.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid moved into second place after a 2-0 victory over Las Palmas. Image by RealMadriden/X

Real Madrid eased to a 2-0 win over Las Palmas on Wednesday 27 September 2023 to overtake Barcelona and move second, but Catalan minnows Girona are the surprise La Liga leaders after a 2-1 win at Villarreal.

Barcelona started the week top of the league, but a 2-2 draw at Real Mallorca on Tuesday left the door open for their rivals to overtake them.

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Comfortable victory Diaz and Joselu

Madrid produced a comfortable victory with goals from Brahim Diaz and Joselu, while Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior also made his return from injury as a second-half substitute following a month out.

“(Vinicius) came on with a lot of desire and hope; he wanted to score and help the team,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. “He’s totally recovered, but now he has to prepare well and be ready for the next game on Saturday when he will start.”

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Ancelotti rested Jude Bellingham, who has been Madrid’s best player so far, starting Diaz in attacking midfield in the England international’s stead.

The Italian also swapped out both full-backs after the painful derby defeat by Atletico Madrid on Sunday, with Ferland Mendy and Nacho starting in place of Fran Garcia and Lucas Vazquez.

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Real Madrid performance without Benzema

Real Madrid was on the front foot from the start against their promoted visitors from the Canary Islands but lacked the killer finishing touch that Karim Benzema brought in recent years and Bellingham has in recent weeks.

Striker Joselu, on loan from Espanyol, had various chances to break the deadlock but was repeatedly denied by excellent Las Palmas goalkeeper Alvaro Valles, who also thwarted Diaz.

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Vazquez replaced the injured David Alaba, with Nacho moving inside to centre-back, and the substitute played a part in the opening goal just before the break. Diaz broke the deadlock, taking a touch to control Vazquez’s cross and then firing into the top corner with the aid of a slight deflection.

“For the goal, I had the calm that I didn’t have before on other chances. I had that patience, and I’m very happy,” said Diaz, who was on loan at AC Milan last season. “It’s incredible to score at the Bernabeu; it’s something that’s unique.”

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Joselu made amends for his first-half profligacy to pounce early in the second with a well-placed header from Rodrygo’s cross that this time left Valles no chance.

Vinicius made his return with over half an hour remaining as Ancelotti reverted to a 4-3-3 system, having begun with the midfield diamond he has favoured this season. Madrid saw out the game without incident to move one point ahead of Barcelona.

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“I think that with the team we have, we could have played more competitively than we did today,” said Las Palmas coach Garcia Pimienta, previously in charge of Barcelona’s reserve team.

Girona against Madrid

Michel’s Girona came from behind to beat Villarreal, with on-loan Barcelona defender Eric Garcia netting the winner — they are a point ahead of Madrid.

Dani Parejo sent Pacheta’s struggling Villarreal ahead from the penalty spot before Ukrainian striker Artem Dovbyk levelled for Girona, and Garcia headed home after an hour.

“It’s beautiful to see the league table; to see us up there is something this club and these fans should be proud of,” said Michel. “People will go to sleep happy, and I am very proud.

We had the best second half possible against a big team and created a lot of chances.” Real Madrid visit Montilivi on Saturday in a mouthwatering clash between the top two, while Barcelona host Sevilla on Friday.

Los Blancos’ lack of defensive depth is a worry at centre-back, with Alaba going off hurt and Antonio Rudiger in some discomfort at the end. Eder Militao is a long-term absentee after suffering a cruciate ligament injury.

Athletic Bilbao, fourth, was left frustrated after a 2-2 draw with Getafe. Carlos Fernandez’s goal earned Real Sociedad a 1-0 win at Valencia, allowing the Basque team to rise to fifth, while Rayo Vallecano is sixth after a 0-0 draw at Cadiz.

© Agence France-Presse