Bellingham brings Real to brink of title with Clasico winner

Published April 23, 2024
MADRID: Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham (second R) challenges Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen during their La Liga match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.—AFP
MADRID: Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham (second R) challenges Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen during their La Liga match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.—AFP

MADRID: Jude Bellingham snatched Real Madrid a dramatic 3-2 Clasico win over champions Barcelona on Sunday with a “fundamental” goal to take them 11 points clear at the top of La Liga with six games left.

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed the England midfielder’s decisive intervention to take Los Blancos to the brink of the Spanish title.

Real twice fought back from a goal down with Vinicius Junior and Lucas Vazquez netting to level Andreas Christensen and Fermin Lopez strikes before Bellingham smashed in the winner at the far post from about six yards out to beat the champions for a fourth successive time.

“He arrived at just the right time, he worked so hard in the game, it’s been a while since he scored and today he scored a goal that could be fundamental in winning the league,” said Ancelotti.

Barca were left licking their wounds after being knocked out of the Champions League on Tuesday in a heartbreaking 4-1 defeat against Paris St Germain.

Real’s win, on the other hand, ended a perfect week for Ancelotti’s side after they advanced to the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday after beating holders Manchester City on penalties.

“What a great night for being a Real Madrid fan, it’s incredible,” Luka Modric told Real Madrid TV. “It’s a win that edges us closer to the title, it’s what we want. It was a great game, we never stopped believing. We were behind twice but kept fighting, playing well, pressing and in the end we came back time and time again.”

Real’s penalty-saving hero against City, goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, made an early mistake to hand Barcelona the lead.

The Ukrainian strayed from his line to try and deal with a corner but got nowhere near the ball and Christensen nodded into the empty net.

But Real piled on the pressure and Vinicius equalised 12 minutes later from the penalty spot after Lucas Vazquez was fouled inside the box after dribbling past two defenders.

Barcelona were not deterred and made inroads down their right flank with Lamine Yamal giving Eduardo Camavinga a torrid time.

The 16-year-old starlet thought he had struck with a clever flick from a corner but Lunin pushed the ball to safety, with Barcelona arguing it had already crossed the line.

La Liga does not contract goal-line technology and using VAR the officials could not confirm the ball had completely entered the goal, so the Catalans were left frustrated,

“We deserved much more given the way we played but there’s not much we can do,” said Barca manager Xavi Hernandez, who announced in February that he was stepping down at the end of a difficult season. “[Not having goal-line technology] is a disgrace.”

Barca were dealt a blow on the stroke of half-time when midfielder Frenkie de Jong was taken off on a stretcher after hurting his ankle in a challenge by Fede Valverde.

Xavi also brought Lopez on for Christensen at the interval and it paid dividends for the coach after a slower start to the second half.

The midfielder was in the right place at the right time to finish after 69 minutes when Lunin could only parry Yamal’s low effort back into danger.

However Real, seeking a fifth league and Champions League double, swiftly struck back when Vinicius crossed to the back post and Vazquez arrived to finish.

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen made a brilliant save to thwart Vinicius with Real looking for a winner to virtually wrap up their La Liga title.

Bellingham dealt the killer blow, despite largely being kept quiet by the Catalans until he appeared to emphatically decide the match in stoppage time from Vazquez’s cross.

“It’s hard to find words for it. It’s an accumulation of many things. We have not been at the level of competitiveness that we should have been. And that cost us,” Barca goalkeeper Ter Stegen told Movistar Plus+.

Earlier Atletico Madrid suffered a 2-0 defeat at Alaves to dent their chances of a top four finish and end a woeful week, after being knocked out of the Champions League in midweek by Borussia Dortmund.

Diego Simeone’s side, fourth, lead fifth place Athletic by three points after Carlos Benavidez and Luis Rioja’s strikes consigned them to defeat.

“After Tuesday’s [Champions League] blow, it’s not easy to come out of it. Right away, their first chance was a goal. We couldn’t have a first half where we could play the game we wanted,” coach Simeone told DAZN.

“The second half was different, we were closer to equalising. Rioja then scored a great goal. We congratulate them and let’s get back to work.”

Published in Dawn, April 23nd, 2024

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