Antonio Rüdiger’s Decisive Header in Real’s 1-0 Win Against Mallorca Ensures Real Stays First in La Liga
It was not the preferred start to 2024 the Real Madrid fans wanted, but it was a much-needed win as Antonio Rüdiger’s second-half winner ensured Los Blancos remained top of La Liga, with Girona looming close behind. Real Madrid ended 2023 in first place and were heavy favourites to impose a thrashing against Mallorca, whom they scored 13 goals in their last four meetings. However, the solid visitors mounted a resilient defensive display and even came close to shocking the host with two efforts that hit the woodwork. Eventually, Real displayed their champion mantle as Antonio Rüdiger nodded home the winner with 12 minutes of regular time left to play.
Antonio Rüdiger and the Old Guards Stepped up in Place of an Out-Of-Sought Jude Bellingham
When talking about the bright sparkle that lit up the Santiago Bernabéu in the new era of Galacticos, many would point to Jude Bellingham. However, today was an off day for the Golden Boy winner as Mallorca frustrated and limited him to nothing in front of goal. Fortunately, Real is a side with proven winners, and the old guards of Antonio Rüdiger and Luka Modric came forward and dragged Real across the finish line.
As mentioned earlier, Mallorca had the better chances in the match, where they hit the bar and post in either half before a comical point-blank miss from Brahim Díaz sums up the disappointing afternoon thus far for Los Blancos. However, when Mallorca failed to clear their lines in the 77-minute and allowed an inswinging corner from Modric, their hard work came undone as Antonio Rüdiger peeled off his marker and glanced his header past the static Predrag Rajković.
With their entire tactic of setting up shops ruined, Mallorca could only chase ghosts as Real kept possession of the ball and saw out the final whistle. While the win was not pretty for Antonio Rüdiger and crew, it was their ninth win in ten games. Moreover, the win ensured they stayed top of La Liga with 48 points, only goal difference and H2H separating them from second place Girona, who won a 4-3 thriller against Atlético de Madrid.
Antonio Rüdiger and Carlo Ancelotti Pleased with Win
Speaking to reporters after the match, Antonio Rüdiger praised his teammates for their part in his goal and the win. “Great cross by Luka, great block by Dani Carvajal, and luckily it went in. I’m happy because it was an important goal and three important points for us. This team has something special, a good mix of young and old talent.”
As for Real manager Carlo Ancelotti, he felt contempt for his team’s performance and saved most of his praise towards Antonio Rüdiger. “He has taken advantage of others’ injuries. He is performing at a very high level, with continuity. He is always ready in duels. He is an insurance that we have behind. He is doing his best.”
As for the game-winning moment, the Italian stated: “In this first stretch of the season, we have scored many goals from set pieces, the coaching staff works very well, we have good throwers, we have formidable headers, like Antonio Rüdiger. Games like this are those in which the set piece gives an advantage. Mallorca was very organised and very strong in the duels. We have not played at our best level. It was normal to expect it, and there was a lack of freshness in the last third. But we won with a well-made set piece.”
A Potential Quadruple on the Card for Real Madrid?
With Real Madrid only losing once since the 23/24 season started to Atlético de Madrid in September, many of their fans have begun imagining a potential quadruple season for the club.
For context, Real Madrid is currently joint leaders in La Liga, with old-time rivals Barcelona and Atlético double-digits behind, a knockout stage contender in the UEFA Champions League, Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup. Thus, the quadruple is still available, but we think it may be a stretch too far for the injury-ridden twice previous quadruple winners.
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