Vinícius Júnior affirms Madrid’s dominance as Girona faces reality in encounter | Sid Lowe

Vinícius Júnior affirms Madrid’s dominance as Girona faces reality in encounter | Sid Lowe


From his glass enclosure on the eighth floor of the Santiago Bernabéu, Girona’s manager, Míchel Sánchez, had a clear view of Yan Couto far below: he was the individual with the pink hair, crying. This was supposed to be their time, a chance to make history and pave a way for the future, but in the end, it was all too overwhelming. Real Madrid had proven to be too formidable.

The individual who arrived to offer comfort to Couto once the match had ended definitely showed his concern: at the end of the game, Vinícius Júnior came over and placed an arm around his fellow Brazilian, as if expressing remorse for the difficulty he had caused him; for 77 minutes, he had continuously outplayed and outmaneuvered him.

Girona arrived with aspirations, but were confronted with the reality of facing Real. They showed up ready to fight for the title, but according to Míchel, they were reminded that this is not their league – it belongs to Madrid. While no one was willing to declare the title race over with 14 weeks remaining, Carlo Ancelotti acknowledged that his team had delivered a significant blow. This victory came at a crucial moment. Their 4-0 win on Saturday in what seemed an unlikely title decider put them five points ahead of Girona in second place. Additionally, with Barcelona drawing and Atlético Madrid losing the following night, their lead over their traditional rivals increased to 10 and 13 points respectively. Ancelotti described it as the best performance at the most crucial moment.

According to Míchel, the team is performing at an exceptionally high level. It’s unlikely that they will lose their momentum if they continue like this. Míchel also expressed understanding for Couto, who is only 21 years old and had a rough game against a player who has outplayed many others. He refused to give up on Couto, despite his struggles during the match. Even though Couto was involved in all four goals and the penalty kick that Joselu hit against the post, Míchel recognizes that these things happen in football. He admitted that his team cannot expect to dominate against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu, as their level is not comparable. This may have been a relief for Míchel, as he no longer has to pretend that his team can achieve something like Leicester did. After all, Leicester never had to face a player like Vinícius.

During a recent Copa del Rey game against Atlético Madrid, cameras captured Vinícius boasting about his skills, puffing his chest out, and exclaiming: “I’m so good, madre mía, I’m so good!” Despite this moment of confidence, Antoine Griezmann went on to score a remarkable goal, securing the win for Atlético. However, Vinícius was not entirely wrong – he has been recognized as a valuable player, with El País referring to him as a “weapon” this weekend. And if Eric García’s prediction of Vinícius becoming a Ballon d’Or winner in the future holds true, it’s not far-fetched to believe that he will indeed achieve this feat one day.

On occasions like this, specifically. When questioned about the Brazilian’s performance on Saturday night, Ancelotti stated: “Outstanding. In my personal view, when he plays at this caliber and with this mindset, he is the greatest in the world.”

The recurring theme in those words is a message about attitude. A couple of months ago, Nacho Fernández mentioned that he and other teammates had advised Vinícius to only focus on playing. After the Super Cup final, Ancelotti expressed his disapproval of Vinícius and Jude Bellingham performing backheels when the game was already won. Vinícius later admitted that he sometimes talks too much or does unnecessary tricks, but is learning from his manager and teammates to improve and be a good role model. However, despite this, Vinícius had scored a hat-trick to secure a 4-1 victory over Barcelona that night, which ultimately is what matters.

Jude Bellingham playing for Real Madrid against Girona. View image in fullscreen

The man who was once the subject of ridicule has proven his worth by scoring 23 goals and assisting 21 times last season. In the previous year, he scored 22 goals and provided 20 assists, including the winning goal in the Champions League final. Despite facing an injury this year, he has managed to score 12 goals and provide seven assists. He is slowly getting back into form and once he’s fully fit, he is unstoppable. There is no other player who can match his electrifying and exciting performance on the field, and no one who can shatter your dreams like he can. In the eight games since his return, he has scored six goals and provided three assists. In the recent match, he scored one goal and provided two, although some argue it should be three. He played a vital role in all four goals as Real Madrid defeated Girona, a team that no one else has been able to beat. On that night, Couto was dribbled past more times than any player in history at the Bernabéu stadium.

Vinícius displayed a variety of skills, embodying different players on the field. He made an impressive goal with a powerful shot, reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo. He also assisted the second goal with a skillful pass using the outside of his foot, similar to Luka Modric. With his agile footwork, including a move called “croqueta” here, he outmaneuvered his opponent and created the third goal, channeling Neymar. And while Rodrygo had a lot of ground to cover for the final goal, Vinícius was the one who ultimately claimed the ball from Couto and secured the fourth goal, perhaps taking on the role of… Gavi?

In summary, his skills were exceptional. This was true for all of them. Madrid has experienced three ACL injuries. Éder Militão has been absent for the entire season, as has Thibaut Courtois. They lack a true center forward, with Joselu starting only nine of their 24 league games. Additionally, they have not had a consistent goalkeeper, with Andriy Lunin and Kepa Arrizabalaga both playing 12 games. In their recent game, they were forced to play midfielder Lucas Vázquez at full-back and had no available center-backs due to injuries to Militão, David Alaba, Nacho, and Antonio Rüdiger. Dani Carvajal has only played in that position twice in his career, while Aurélien Tchouaméni has played four times. However, Madrid has won all four games and has not conceded a single goal. Ancelotti even praised Carvajal’s performance, saying it was as if he had played 400 games in that position.

During challenging and urgent times, the coach emphasized the importance of increased dedication. He described the team’s performance as modest. He acknowledged that it can be difficult for a team with exceptional players to play selflessly when they do not possess the ball. However, he was pleased that every player, including those known for their game-changing abilities, showed commitment in today’s game. According to him, the most crucial factor is quality. When combined with commitment and attitude, it leads to exceptional performances. When asked about his role in the team’s success, he modestly replied that he does what he can, and ultimately, it is the players who are the key to victory.

Sometimes, the simplest explanation is the most effective, even if it may oversimplify things. Ancelotti’s decision to redirect attention speaks volumes about his character and why he is successful, although it also obscures his involvement. So why did Madrid manage to defeat Girona, the top team in Spain, as if the past few months never happened? How have Girona only lost twice this season, both times to Madrid and by a combined score of 7-0? Even when Madrid isn’t dominating, why do they still manage to deliver the final blow? Why are they likely to win the league? Observing them form a tight defensive line in front of their center-backs, preventing Girona from getting a single shot on target, was interesting. It was also intriguing to see them give up possession in certain areas of the pitch and mark man-to-man in others. But ultimately, it comes down to one thing: they are simply better. Even with some players missing, they are still a team of highly skilled footballers.

There is indeed bias present. The speaker is obligated to make this statement. And it is true that there are other potential candidates – the most likely one is likely on the way to join them. However, consider this and inquire: is he truly incorrect? When asked if Vinícius is the top player in the world, Ancelotti responded with “Bellingham.” He then continued with “Rodrygo” as third, followed by “Kroos,” “Valverde,” and “Camavinga.” Ancelotti also stated that today’s match was impressive and that being on the bench was comfortable.

From a suspended and elevated position in the Bernabéu stands, Míchel observed the game from a box that gave him a clear view of the field and Couto’s emotional reaction. While it was a different experience for him, there were no feelings of remorse or blame. “They were simply superior to us because they are a fantastic team,” he stated. “Their performance today was nearly impossible to counter. Camavinga, Vinícius, Bellingham… when you go up against such exceptional players, it puts your own abilities into perspective and shows that this is not our level of competition.”

No, it belongs to them.

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Talking points

Also, Toni Kroos deserves a mention. Wow.

Catalonia Radio reported that during Barcelona’s tumultuous 3-3 tie with Granada, 16-year-old Lamine Yamal gave a stellar performance by scoring two goals and providing a ray of hope amidst the chaos. This caused club president Joan Laporta to become extremely angry and throw a tray of canapés in the directors’ box. The situation was truly chaotic.

The carnival in the bay was met with unexpected bad weather. To prepare for potential rain, Cádiz purchased 10,000 rain jackets to distribute during their game against Betis. However, the weather took a turn for the worse and the jackets were thrown onto the field in frustration. The team, who have not won a game in five months, were defeated 2-0. Striker Chris Ramos commented that it is time for the team to reflect and possibly reevaluate their performance.

“One must face the consequences of their actions, as demonstrated during Celta Vigo’s match against Getafe on Sunday. Luca de la Torre accidentally knocked down Getafe coach José Bordalás while being pushed by Mason Greenwood. Bordalás took a while to recover as concerned spectators gathered around him. Despite the incident, Bordalás was able to see the humor in it as his team ultimately won the game 3-2 with a late goal from Jaime Mata. After the match, Bordalás commented that this is just a part of football. Celta’s performance improved greatly when Iago Aspas entered the game, which is no surprise to anyone familiar with his abilities.”

Last month at this time, Isaac Romero was a player on Sevilla Atlético’s youth team, competing against El Palo in Spain’s Segunda RFEF Group 4, which is considered the country’s fourth division. However, even referring to it as the fourth division is being generous, as there are 40 teams in Primera RFEF divided into two groups, and 90 teams in Segunda RFEF divided into five groups. In fact, it may not be accurate to call it Sevilla’s youth team in Romero’s case, as he is 23 years old. However, due to an emergency situation, he was called up to the first team and has since scored five goals and provided one assist in seven games. This past Sunday, he scored the winning goal against Atlético Madrid, which was much needed and caused a frenzy among the fans. Prior to this, their last home win was in September. “It was long overdue,” Isaac stated. Teammate Óliver Torres added, “We desperately needed this win after such a long time without one at home. Isaac has been a great addition to the team – he’s a good teammate, humble, and a great guy. Luck has been on his side.”

Regarding Atlético, Jan Oblak characterized this loss – their sixth on the road – as a recurring narrative.

After Las Palmas’s victory of 2-0 against Valencia, Kirian Rodríguez appeared wearing a shirt with the name Marc on the back. Marc, a Dutch fan of Las Palmas, had also battled cancer like Kirian. Sadly, he passed away recently and was laid to rest with Kirian’s shirt.

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Real Madrid 24 37 61
2 Girona 24 23 56
3 Barcelona 24 17 51
4 Atletico Madrid 24 19 48
5 Athletic Bilbao 23 21 45
6 Real Betis 24 3 38
7 Real Sociedad 24 10 37
8 Las Palmas 24 5 35
9 Valencia 24 0 35
10 Getafe 24 -1 33
11 Osasuna 24 -9 29
12 Alaves 24 -7 27
13 Villarreal 24 -12 25
14 Rayo Vallecano 24 -11 24
15 Sevilla 24 -7 23
16 Mallorca 24 -10 23
17 Celta Vigo 24 -9 20
18 Cadiz 24 -18 17
19 Granada 24 -22 13
20 Almeria 23 -29 6