Madrid thrash Villarreal to go top but Alaba injured
Madrid now have 38 goals in La Liga, equalling Girona's total as the top scorers to date.
Real Madrid’s Croatian midfielder #10 Luka Modric celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Spanish league football match against Villarreal CF at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Sunday. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)
Real Madrid cruised to a 4-1 win over Villarreal on Sunday to move top of La Liga but their night was tarnished when defender David Alaba suffered a serious knee injury.
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Carlo Ancelotti’s side are a point ahead of Catalan minnows Girona, who host Alaves on Monday and will be looking to reclaim pole position.
Spain’s top scorer Jude Bellingham broke the deadlock for Madrid with his 13th league goal of the season before Rodrygo Goes doubled their lead.
Villarreal pulled one back through Jose Luis Morales, but Brahim Diaz scored a superb solo goal to restore Madrid’s advantage.
Luka Modric drove home the fourth as Madrid fans celebrated a sizeable victory in their final home match of the year.
Madrid’s joy was tempered by Alaba’s injury, confirmed by the club in a statement, saying the defender needs surgery.
The Austrian joins a long list of players out, including Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao and Eduardo Camavinga, all with knee injuries, and winger Vinicius Junior among others.
Ancelotti said Alaba’s injury was “very sad” but praised his team’s performance.
“We think we are doing very well, it was one of our best games,” said the coach.
The highlight of the night was Diaz’s fine individual strike.
“It’s the kind of move I usually try, today it went in, so I’m very happy,” Diaz told Real Madrid TV.
“(I’m happy) for the team’s work, we did a great job today and I’m happy for the goal and for the win.”
Former Manchester City midfielder Diaz is striking up a fruitful relationship with Bellingham and Rodrygo in attack.
“We understand each other well, we all get along because it’s an incredible group, we are very united and you see that on the pitch,” he added.
Ancelotti put his faith in England international Bellingham to take an attacking role this season for Madrid and it is paying off in virtually every match.
The 20-year-old netted his 17th goal across all competitions in his 20th match this season to get the party started after Madrid saw rivals Barcelona, third, held at Valencia on Saturday.
– Comfortable triumph –
Madrid, playing at the renovated Santiago Bernabeu with the new roof closed for just the second time, made the early running against Villarreal.
They got their reward midway through the first half when Bellingham leaped high to nod home Modric’s delicious clipped cross.
After Alaba’s injury, sustained while trying to challenge Gerard Moreno, Rodrygo doubled the lead from close range.
It was the Brazilian’s eighth goal in his last eight games for Real Madrid, continuing his own superb goalscoring form of late after a slow start to the campaign.
Early in the second half, Villarreal pulled one back, with Morales finishing past Andriy Lunin, selected over Kepa Arrizabalaga.
But Diaz whisked the visitors’ hope away when he turned brilliantly away from Aissa Mandi in midfield, drove forward, swerved Jorge Cuenca and finished with ease.
After Modric added the fourth, Madrid fans brought out the ‘ole’ chants as their team passed the ball around an increasingly frustrated Villarreal.
Madrid now have 38 goals in La Liga, equalling Girona’s total as the top scorers to date.
Midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni made his return from injury as a substitute in the final stages for Los Blancos, who open up a seven-point lead on third-place Barcelona.
“It’s always good to build an advantage on Barca but there’s a long way to go in the league and we have to continue with this mentality,” said Rodrygo.
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Marcelino’s Villarreal languish 14th, three points above the relegation zone.
Earlier Real Sociedad and Real Betis shared the spoils in an intense 0-0 draw on Sunday in La Liga.
Both teams lost ground on Athletic Bilbao, fifth, who beat fourth-placed Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
La Real, sixth, trail their Basque rivals by two points, while Betis, seventh, are five points behind Athletic.