BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Jude Bellingham won’t forget his first “clasico” match for Real Madrid.
And neither will Barcelona.
Already a fan favorite at Madrid, the young England midfielder established himself as its undisputed leader after he scored two goals, including an-injury time winner, to almost single-handedly lead a 2-1 comeback victory at his team’s fiercest rival on Saturday in the Spanish league.
“I had watched many clasicos from the sofa with my family, and I told them that today it was my turn to live it firsthand and do something great,” Bellingham said. "I’ve done that and I’m very happy.”
Bellingham continued his superb scoring form since joining Madrid this summer with 13 goals in as many games overall and a Spanish league-leading 10 goals after 11 rounds. He has blossomed into a clinical finisher since moving to Spain’s capital. In all of last season he had 14 goals for former club Borussia Dortmund in Germany.
Some space well outside the area was enough for Bellingham to blast in a superb equalizer in the 68th minute and cancel out Ilkay Gundogan’s opener. And then Bellingham knew where to be in the final moments: in the heart of the box to poach the winner when a deflected cross fell his way.
“I don’t know how to explain what Jude is doing,” Luka Modric, who played his 500th game for Madrid, said about his new teammate. “He just arrived and is playing like he has been here a long time… I don’t think even he can believe the goals he is scoring.”
Bellingham was kept in check by Barcelona's Gavi Paéz until he found space well outside the box to unleash a strike that swerved past Marc-Andre ter Stegen and hit the corner of the net.
The rival players and coaches agreed that the sizzling equalizer changed a game that, until shortly before his strike, Barcelona had controlled.
“The equalizer changed the dynamic of the game,” Madric coach Carlo Ancelotti said.
Bellingham tapped in the stoppage-time winner when a cross by Dani Carvajal deflected by Luka Modric fell to him in front of the goal.
As Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández put it: “Bellingham is a great player, but he is also in a state of grace.”
Madrid remained top of the league, level on points with second-place Girona. Barcelona is in third place at four points back. Atletico Madrid can move ahead of Barcelona with a win over Alaves on Sunday.
GAVI VS JUDE
Barcelona dictated the first half, and Gundogan’s insistence on chasing a ball that Madrid appeared to be certain to control or clear paid off with his first goal for his new club in the sixth minute.
Gundogan worked a quick passing combination with Ferran Torres, but it was a poor touch by Aurélien Tchouaméni that let Gundogan continue his run forward past Antonio Rudiger and David Alaba, who were both slow to react. Alaba failed to kick the ball to safety and Gundogan only had to tap it past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Barcelona went for a second goal and almost found it when Gavi stripped the ball from Toni Kroos near Madrid’s area and set up Fermín López, whose shot hit the post.
Barcelona’s Íñigo Martínez headed off the post in the 51st and Kepa had to turn away Ronald Araújo’s attempt to put in the rebound.
“They had 25 good minutes and scored twice, and we had a good 60 minutes and only scored once,” Xavi said. “I sincerely think that, if one team should have won today, it was Barca. But Madrid is like this. If you don’t finish them off, they come back and kill you.”
The game between the two Spanish powerhouses featured a fascinating showdown between the 20-year-old Bellingham and Barcelona’s 19-year-old Gavi, a rivalry that promises to continue for years to come.
Gavi, an aggressive tackler, might have won almost all the individual battles, stripping Bellingham of the ball several times, but it was Bellingham who was celebrating after his decisive brace in one of the world’s most watched soccer games.
About his own performance, Gavi said, “It didn’t mean a thing since we didn’t win.”
Robert Lewandowski, Barcelona’s top scorer, began the game on the bench and went on for the final half hour to little effect. The striker received a medical clearance before kickoff that he had recovered from an injury that had sidelined him for several weeks.
STONES VS BEATLES
Rock legend Mick Jagger attended the game at Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium to see Barcelona’s players wear special jerseys featuring the Rolling Stones’ iconic “hot lips” logo in place of the club's normal shirt sponsor.
Madrid had a bit of fun with the alliance between the Stones and Barcelona after the game. It posted an image of Bellingham with the message “The Beatles were always my favorite band” on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Bellingham's fans have sung Beatles hit “Hey Jude” to praise the player.
Sevilla erased a two-goal deficit before drawing 2-2 at Cadiz. Las Palmas beat last-place Almeria 2-1, and Getafe drew 0-0 at Mallorca.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press