Rodrygo 'returns to best level' as Real Madrid reclaim La Liga top spot

Brazilian forward scores again in 2-0 win over Granada after history-making Girona beat Valencia

Rodrygo scored his seventh goal in his past five games for Real Madrid in the 2-0 win over Granada. AFP
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Carlo Ancelotti believes Rodrygo has "returned to his best level" after the Brazilian forward continued his fine run of form to help Real Madrid ease past Granada and return to the top of La Liga.

After surprise high-flyers Girona snatched a 2-1 win over Valencia to move temporarily top, Madrid slid back above them on goal difference on a tranquil evening in the capital.

Brahim Diaz opened the scoring midway through the first half and Rodrygo doubled the lead after 57 minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Brazilian forward has scored seven goals in his last five games across all competitions, appearing at the perfect time to keep Madrid's strong start to the season going despite various absences.

Madrid are missing several key figures through injury, from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to winger Vinicius Junior. However, Los Blancos had more than enough to sweep past the Andalucians, 19th and battling against relegation.

"(Rodrygo) has returned to his best level, scoring a lot of goals," Madrid manager Ancelotti told reporters.

The Italian also reserved some praise for midfielder Toni Kroos, who set up Diaz's opener with a clever pass.

"He doesn't give balls away, he always chooses the best option, he's a midfielder who wants the ball," added Ancelotti. "He is not afraid and he positions himself very well, it's his biggest virtue, his control too ... when he doesn't play, he's irreplaceable."

Without creating an excess of chances, Madrid quickly took control of the game. After 26 minutes, Kroos' superb pass sent Diaz in on goal and he stayed cool to gently nudge home and put Madrid ahead.

It was the former Manchester City playmaker's second goal in four matches, with Diaz showing he can help the red-hot Rodrygo fill the gap left by Vinicius' injury.

"We played the football that we know, it was a nearly perfect game, we dominated the match and they created very few chances against us," Diaz told Real Madrid TV.

Jude Bellingham, La Liga's top scorer with 11 goals, could have added another just before half-time but scuffed his shot across goal, the ball bobbling wide.

Madrid's second arrived after a neat team move, with Joselu and Diaz combining to tee up Bellingham.

Granada goalkeeper Andre Ferreira denied the midfielder but Rodrygo galloped onto the rebound and smashed home before the hour mark. He has now netted in five consecutive matches.

Girona 'making history'

Earlier, Girona fought back brilliantly to ensure they would not drop further points in the title race after a draw against Athletic Bilbao on Monday.

Trailing to Hugo Duro's 56th-minute strike with under 10 minutes remaining, Girona finally broke down Valencia's walls through veteran striker Cristhian Stuani's brace.

Stuani levelled after 82 minutes and bundled home another with two minutes to go, with both goals set up by Yan Couto crosses as fans at Girona's tiny Montilivi stadium went wild.

After dropping two points in a draw with Athletic Bilbao to start the week, Girona seemed poised to fall to only their second defeat of the season.

"It's good to recognise that we are making history, it can't be something normal that we've taken 12 wins from 15 games," Girona coach Michel told reporters.

"I only ask that in the bad moments we are united, I keep thinking that – Madrid, Barca, Atleti, is not our league – we will not keep up this rhythm, and we should all be sure about that."

Updated: December 03, 2023, 7:58 AM