Rodrygo and Federico Valverde scored on Sunday to earn Real Madrid a 2-1 win over neighbors Atletico Madrid in a heated derby to return to the top of La Liga.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have started their title defense in perfect fashion, with a 100 percent record from six games. The victory took Real two points above Barcelona, who had leapfrogged into first place on Saturday.
The game was marred by racist chants aimed at Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Jr outside the stadium before the game, sparked by criticism of his dancing goal celebrations and a subsequent debate over whether that criticism was racist.
Fans also threw objects at Vinicius Jr after a Real goal and aimed racist chants at him in the closing stages.
After another Brazilian, Rodrygo, broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, he danced in celebration with Vinicius Jr, to the chagrin of Atletico’s enraged supporters. Some threw objects, including lighters, at the duo.
“Derbies are always important, but today was a bit different for what happened during the week,” Rodrygo said. “We responded on the pitch, and I only talk for myself. I am very happy to play well and to score another goal.”
Real Madrid were missing the injured Karim Benzema, while the hosts picked Antoine Griezmann in the starting lineup for the first time this season and they were on top in the opening stages.
Spurred on by the rowdy atmosphere, Diego Simeone’s side pressed high up the pitch and put Los Blancos on the back foot, with Felipe heading over and Dani Carvajal deflecting a Yannick Carrasco shot into the side-netting.
Geoffrey Kondogbia launched an effort at goal which narrowly missed, but with Atletico dominant, Real Madrid landed a sucker punch.
Aurelien Tchouameni scooped a delightful pass over the defense and Rodrygo smartly dispatched it past Jan Oblak.
Atletico tried to fight back, with a fierce drive from Griezmann flying past the post and Thibault Courtois denying Carrasco, before Real Madrid struck another killer blow.
Vinicius Jr, persistently whistled by Atletico fans, combined with Luka Modric before hitting the post and Valverde followed up to slam into the net from close range after 36 minutes.
The Uruguayan has four goals and two assists in seven games across all competitions, cementing himself as an essential presence on the right flank for Ancelotti.
“[Valverde] and Rodrygo are very special players, because they are what the modern footballer has to be,” Ancelotti said. “They can play in various positions, they have something that stands out, technique, physique, we are delighted with them.”
Real Madrid have now won all nine matches they have played this season across all competitions.
They took the sting out of the game in the second half by trying to keep the ball.
Mario Hermoso pulled a goal back when Courtois flailed at a corner and the defender finished with his shoulder into the empty net in the 83rd minute, but Atletico could not complete an unlikely comeback.
“This Real Madrid reminds me of the team that we had with Diego Costa,” Simeone said. “When there is that forcefulness, football is marvelous.”
Further racist chanting was aimed at Vinicius Jr from some of the home fans and Hermoso was sent off in stoppage-time after earning a second yellow card for battling with Dani Ceballos at a corner.
It was a dismal end to a dismal night for Atletico Madrid, both on and, shamefully, off the pitch.
Elsewhere, Getafe won 2-0 at CA Osasuna, Real Betis Balompie defeated Girona 2-1, Real Sociedad downed RCD Espanyol by the same score, and Villarreal and Sevilla drew 1-1.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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