Real Madrid leapfrogged Barcelona back to the top of the La Liga table with a hard-fought 4-1 victory over Real Mallorca at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Goals from Federico Valverde, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Antonio Rudiger were enough to give Carlo Ancelotti’s side the three points, in a game where their opposition defended resolutely, and shell-shocked the hosts 10 minutes before the interval as Vedat Muriqi’s unmarked header from a Kang In Lee free-kick put Mallorca into an unlikely ascendency.
Valverde unleashed a wonderful solo goal to equalise for the Madridistas; driving from inside his own half and curling a spectacular left-footed curler beyond the hapless reach of Rajkovic to draw the defending champions level in an evenly matched tactical battle.
The hosts shuffled their pack after a dominant 3-0 win over Celtic in the Champions League in midweek, and Eden Hazard was afforded his first start since January after an excellent display off the bench in Glasgow.
Muriqi tested Thibaut Courtois in the home goal in the early exchanges as Mallorca flew out of the blocks, with the Kosovan target man flicking a floated ball over the head of Antonio Rudiger and flashing a shot at the Belgian goalkeeper, but the home shot-stopper was alert in averting the danger.
Toni Kroos was instrumental as he orchestrated the game’s tempo in a deeper-lying midfield role, and the German went close on 14 minutes as he curled an effort from outside the area just wide of the far post.
Lucas Vazquez wasn’t far away with yet another curled effort from range after a quickly taken corner kick routine, but Rajkovic was again not forced into action as the attempt flew off target.
Clement Grenier’s introduction for Mallorca proved a good move from Javier Aguirre, as the experienced Frenchman carved out a wonderful opportunity for his fellow substitute Antonio Sanchez, but the Spaniard could only side-foot wide with the Madrid net at his mercy.
It would be a costly miss for the Balearic Islanders: Vincius Junior – so often the talismanic figure for Madrid – stepped up to the plate to chip the hosts into the lead for the first time, after a scintillating run from Rodrygo that carved open the visiting defensive unit.
Rodrygo turned goalscorer at the third attempt, channelling what Valverde had displayed for the first goal, with a memorable solo goal to cap off a fine personal performance.
Antonio Rudiger finished off the late flurry with his first in the white of Madrid, ghosting in unmarked at the far post to ease the cushion.
It wasn’t vintage Real Madrid, but Los Blancos eventually got the job done, with some difficulty.
TALKING POINT – INDIVIDUAL QUALITY TOO HOT TO HANDLE
Mallorca started, and defended, so well, but they were just overcome by better players.
The dynamic Brazilian duo of Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior posed them problems all game, and when their wing-backs were as exposed as they were at times, that was always going to spell trouble.
Javier Aguirre’s side were strong and solid in their shape, but when it came to Madrid’s constant probing, the visitors had no choice but to eventually succumb.
The final two goals would have been a suckerpunch – a real disappointment for the visiting manager – whose side allowed their frustration to cloud their concentration, in turn seeing two final strikes hit the back of their net to make what was,, in reality, a closely fought tactical battle, look more like a routine victory for the defending champions.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – RODRYGO (REAL MADRID)
It would have been Toni Kroos or Valverde after their dominant displays in the middle of the park, but after a goal and an assist, it would be foolish not to give it to Madrid’s hot-shot right-winger.
Classy on the ball, clever with his intricacy and vision, the Brazilian was the ultimate package for Los Blancos.
He was quiet in the first half as Jaume Costa marshalled him well, using his experience to frustrate the wonderkid, but the energy and pace of the forward eventually broke the former Villarreal left wing-back down.
Madrid: Courtois 6, Vazquez 6, Rudiger 7, Alaba 6, Mendy 6, Ceballos 6, Kroos 7, Valverde 7, Rodrygo 8, Hazard 5, Vinicius 6… Subs: Modric 6, Nacho 6, Camavinga 6, Carvajal 6.
Mallorca: Rajkovic 6, Maffeo 6, Valjent 6, Raillo 6, Nastasic 7, Costa 6, Battaglia 6, Galarreta 5, Rodriguez 6, Lee 6, Muriqi 7… Subs: Baba 6, Grenier 7, Sanchez 6, Prats 6, Junior 6.
2′: GREAT SAVE! Muriqi goes close as Mallorca fly out of the blocks, as he flicks one over Rudiger’s head and flashes a shot at Courtois, but the Belgian is equal to it to parry.
35′: GOAL! (Vedat Muriqi) Mallorca are ahead, and what a shock! Lee’s inswinger finds Muriqi unmarked at the back post to nod them into an unlikely lead! 1-0!
45′: GOAL! (Federico Valverde) What an equalier from Fede Valverde, as he drives individually through the Mallorca half, cutting inside onto his left foot, and firing a rocket beyond Rajkovic into the top corner! What a strike!
72′: GOAL! (Vinicius Jr) It’s great vision from Rodrygo as his tricky run through the heart of the Mallorca defence results in a great pass to set up his compatriot Vinicius Junior, who coolly chips Rajkovic to put Madrid ahead.
88′: GOAL! (Rodrygo) There’s number three, and it really is game over now. Rodrygo finally adds to his tally, and it’s a memorable solo goal to round off the game. 3-1.
90′: GOAL! (Antonio Rudiger) One more for the tally, and it stems from a free kick conceded out of frustration. Rudiger at the far post, unmarked, lashes home his first for Los Blancos!