Rodrygo celebrates. Alamy Stock Photo
on the continent

Rodrygo fires Madrid further clear at top of La Liga

In France,10-man PSG beat their fierce rivals Marseille.

RODRYGO FIRED LA Liga leaders Real Madrid to a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao with a superb brace on Sunday to restore their eight-point advantage on Barcelona.

After the second-place champions beat Las Palmas on Saturday to put pressure on Carlo Ancelotti’s side, Los Blancos responded with a solid showing at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Without suspended Brazil forward Vinicius Junior, his compatriot Rodrygo made the difference with two superb strikes against an Athletic with one eye on next weekend’s Copa del Rey final.

Ernesto Valverde rested goalkeeper Unai Simon and defender Dani Vivian, along with Nico Williams, who had a minor muscular issue.

Defeat leaves fifth place Atletico able to rise above Athletic in fourth on Monday when they visit Villarreal.

Madrid, whose next match is Manchester City’s visit on 9 April in the Champions League quarter-finals, enjoyed a comfortable night.

Ancelotti was able to give defender Eder Militao a few minutes off the bench after a long term knee injury he sustained in August against Athletic on the opening day of the season.

Rodrygo broke the deadlock after just seven minutes with a strike from just outside the area.

After receiving a crossfield pass from Brahim Diaz, the forward drove towards the box and arced a shot beyond the reach of Julen Agirrezabala.

Athletic defender Yeray Alvarez limped off injured, with Valverde bringing on regular starter Vivian in his stead.

Agirrezabala saved from Toni Kroos and Fede Valverde before Aurelien Tchouameni headed a good chance just wide before the break.

Without Spain winger Nico Williams, Athletic looked short of ideas in the final third and they failed to create much in the second half either.

Diaz crashed a shot against the post as Madrid sought a second goal to kill the game, but they needed goalkeeper Andriy Lunin to stay sharp to deny Inaki Williams at the near post with a volley from a corner.

Rodrygo netted his and Madrid’s second after 73 minutes at the end of a slick move, ghosting inside Vivian and finishing at the near post.

Antonio Rudiger thwarted Iker Muniain with a fine piece of last ditch defending to ensure there could be no Athletic comeback.

Militao’s appearance in the final stages marked the end of a good night’s work for Madrid.

In France, Paris Saint-Germain overcame a controversial first-half sending-off to win 2-0 away to bitter rivals Marseille in Ligue 1 on Sunday, with Portuguese duo Vitinha and Goncalo Ramos scoring their goals.

Marseille’s hopes of a first home league win against PSG since November 2011 were raised when the away side had Lucas Beraldo sent off five minutes before the interval.

But the Qatar-owned club still came out on top, with Vitinha exchanging passes with Ousmane Dembele before firing home a superb opening goal in the 53rd minute on a wet night at the Velodrome.

Marseille went looking for an equaliser and Jordan Veretout had a goal disallowed for an offside against team-mate Luis Henrique.

PSG coach Luis Enrique then withdrew captain Kylian Mbappe just after the hour mark and it was his replacement Ramos who made sure of the win five minutes from time.

– © AFP 2024

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