Jude Bellingham inspired Real Madrid to a comfortable 3-0 victory at La Liga surprise package Girona on Saturday.
Bellingham’s superb assist allowed Joselu to open the scoring and, after Aurelien Tchouameni had made it 2-0, the England midfielder wrapped things up with his seventh goal for the Spanish giants.
Real’s victory, soured by Nacho’s red card, was their seventh in eight league matches and saw them return to the top of the table while Girona fell to third after their first defeat of the campaign.
“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.”
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 a moment of magic from Bellingham, who signed from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, changed the direction of the game in Real's favour.
The 20-year-old produced a superb pass with the outside edge of his right boot to bend the 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 Michel said. “Madrid was full-on today and that opener made us realise 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 Modric 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."
Athletic Bilbao remain in fourth despite crumpling to a chastening 3-0 loss at Real Sociedad.
Robin Le Normand opened the scoring while second-half strikes from Takefusa Kubo and Mikel Oyarzabal sealed a commanding victory for a Sociedad side that moved them up to sixth.
Radamel Falcao struck from the penalty spot in the 12th minute of stoppage time as Rayo Vallecano claimed a 2-2 draw against Mallorca while Alex Baena saw red as Villarreal were held to a 0-0 draw at Getafe.