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CADIZ: Real Madrid’s German defender Antonio Rudiger (2R) vies for a header with Cadiz’s Spanish forward Chris Ramos ( R ) during the Spanish league football match between Cadiz CF and Real Madrid CF at the Nuevo Mirandilla stadium in Cadiz. – AFP
CADIZ: Real Madrid’s German defender Antonio Rudiger (2R) vies for a header with Cadiz’s Spanish forward Chris Ramos ( R ) during the Spanish league football match between Cadiz CF and Real Madrid CF at the Nuevo Mirandilla stadium in Cadiz. – AFP
Electric Rodrygo sends Madrid top at Cadiz

CADIZ: Rodrygo sent Real Madrid provisionally top of La Liga with two goals in a comfortable 3-0 win at Cadiz on Sunday. The Brazilian winger also set up a goal for La Liga’s top scorer Jude Bellingham, who now has 11 to his name this season in the Spanish top flight. Madrid climbed a point clear of high-flying Girona, who host Athletic Bilbao on Monday looking to reclaim top spot. Carlo Ancelotti’s side also rose four points clear of fourth-placed rivals Barcelona, following their 1-1 draw at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, and third-placed Atletico Madrid.

Madrid were dealt severe blows over the past fortnight with Vinicius Junior and Eduardo Camavinga suffering long-term injuries, joining Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao and Aurelien Tchouameni on the sidelines. Despite that, Madrid secured a straightforward victory which is not something they take for granted after the international break, and less so with an injury-ravaged squad. “Sometimes difficulty is just more motivation and the players understood that very well,” Ancelotti told reporters.

“All the absences that we have are important players, but we managed it well and the team was very good out there.” The Italian coach started Toni Kroos in defensive midfield and brought veteran playmaker Luka Modric into the team for only his fifth start in La Liga this season.

Bellingham also returned after missing two league games and England’s Euro qualifiers with a shoulder injury. Madrid dominated the opening stages and took the lead after 14 minutes when Rodrygo dribbled across the penalty area and curled a sumptuous strike into the top right corner. The Brazilian struggled for goals at the start of the season but Ancelotti kept faith in him and with Vincius sidelined, he will be crucial for Madrid in the coming weeks. — AFP

‘Rodrygo is back’

Rodrygo’s goals mean he has scored in three consecutive games for the first time since arriving at the club in 2019. “Rodrygo is back—he made the difference today,” said Ancelotti.

Cadiz had their chances in an open first half too, with Chris Ramos heading over before Rodrygo’s opener and Andriy Lunin tipping Roger Marti’s fierce effort to safety. Madrid should have doubled their lead early in the second half after Rodrygo dribbled around Cadiz goalkeeper Conan Ledesma, but Joselu left it to him to finish, and he in turn left it for the veteran striker, with the ball running out of play. However Rodrygo had his second soon enough, another fine strike after dribbling into the box from 30 yards out.

After Maxi Gomez missed a fine chance for the hosts, the inspired Rodrygo set up the third for Bellingham and the England international drilled a tidy low finish across goal with his left foot. With the job done, Ancelotti withdrew both goalscorers and handed young forward Gonzalo Garcia his debut.

“I’m grateful and happy, since I was little I’ve been a Real Madrid fan and I’ve dreamed of playing with the first team,” Garcia, 19, told Real Madrid TV. “I’ll keep the shirt and I’ll ask my team-mates to sign it.”

The only negative note for Madrid was Modric going off with what Ancelotti said was a “muscle overload”. Madrid host Napoli on Wednesday in the Champions League having already qualified from the group but looking to seal top spot.

Earlier Sunday, Marcelino Garcia Toral enjoyed a comfortable win on his return to La Liga management with Villarreal, with Jose Luis Morales’ hat-trick sinking Osasuna 3-1. Real Sociedad, fifth, earned a 2-1 win at Sevilla, who had Sergio Ramos and Jesus Navas sent off.

Veteran defender Ramos’s dismissal was the 29th red card of his career, and a record-extending 21st in La Liga. Willian Jose’s goal helped Real Betis, seventh, edge Las Palmas 1-0 to pull level with Athletic Bilbao, sixth, on 24 points. — AFP

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