Vinicius Junior and Rodrigo Goes each struck twice as Real Madrid crushed Valencia 5-1 on Saturday to stay hot on shock La Liga leaders Girona.
Dani Carvajal opened the scoring for Los Blancos before the Brazil duo took charge as they cruised to victory to move two points behind Girona after a 2-1 win at Rayo Vallecano.
Madrid were without key player Jude Bellingham, watching from a box at the Santiago Bernabeu alongside his mother after he suffered a shoulder injury last weekend from which he has not fully recovered.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said it was his side’s best performance of the season so far.
“It was the best game, Valencia couldn’t show their best level because we played very well,” Ancelotti told reporters.
“In the last two matches we were a complete team, playing good football, with quality, sacrifices, dedication, we did well.”
Vinicius, who played with Valencia’s defence, faced his first challenge since he was racially abused at the east coast club’s stadium in May, sparking outrage around the world.
Rodrigo set up his Brazilian compatriot’s goals before grabbing two himself in a superb night for a duo who had struggled for form until this week.
“Now we are in our best moment (of the season),” Rodrigo told Real Madrid TV.
“We’re back to being the Rodry and Vini that the fans want to see… if they’re happy, then I’m happy.”
Spain’s top scorer with 10 league goals, Bellingham’s absence raised concerns about Madrid’s attacking prowess, but they were quickly quelled.
Carvajal dispelled any doubts with a superb left-footed strike from outside the area in the third minute.
Andriy Lunin, starting in goal again for Madrid after Kepa Arrizabalaga joined Thibaut Courtois in the side, twice denied Valencia striker Hugo Duro in the opening stages with fine stops at the other end.
Then Vinicius and Rodrigo lit up the Bernabeu.
Vinicius extended Real Madrid’s lead with a unique strike, diving onto the ball after Rodrigo had flicked a low cross into the box for him.
He got his second just after the break, beating Giorgi Mamardashvili at the near post from outside the box.
The Valencia keeper made a bad mistake almost immediately afterwards to hand Madrid their fourth on the plate, slotting the ball straight to Rodrigo, who stroked home.
Rodrigo and Vinicius stepped up again in Bellingham’s absence, as they did in midweek when he was benched against Braga.
Rodrigo burst into the area and finished well for Madrid’s fifth, before Duro grabbed a consolation at the third time of asking for Valencia.
Madrid’s win prevented Girona from dropping out of the chase.
“Girona are doing very well, better than the other teams,” added Ancelotti.
“They don’t have any European competition, obviously they are an opponent who can fight for the title, I have no doubt about that.”
Girona came from behind to beat Rayo and keep the pressure on Spain’s traditional giants.
Artem Dovbyk and Savinho fired the Catalan fans to an impressive victory in the capital that leaves them seven points clear of third-placed Barcelona.
Girona, only in the top flight for the fourth season in their history, have played the best football in La Liga this season and set another example against Rayo.
“The team doesn’t give up, when we’re behind we play even better. I’m happy to continue, up there,” Girona captain and playmaker Aleix Garcia told Movistar.
The home side took the lead after five minutes when Girona’s clearance hit Rayo’s Isi Palazon and fell into the path of Alvaro Garcia in the area, who fired into the far corner.
However, Michel’s side dominated the manager’s former side and it was no surprise when Dovbyk equalized with his seventh league goal of the season.
Girona winger Savinho put the visitors in front in the 65th minute, tapping home the rebound after Rayo goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievsky brilliantly saved Dobbik’s effort.
The Catalan side started the season aiming to stay up, but have raised their ambitions after 11 wins in 13 games.
“We have to be realistic, we’re not just thinking about survival now, I think the team can do a lot more,” added Garcia. “We want to keep dreaming… whatever comes, comes.”
Elsewhere, Real Sociedad beat winless Almeria 3-1 at bottom of the table to move up to sixth.
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