La Liga leaders Real Madrid gained a hard-fought win over Mallorca thanks to Antonio Rudiger’s late header.
Mallorca hit the woodwork twice as Antonio Sanchez’s header bounced off the underside of the crossbar on to the goalline, with Samu Costa also hitting the post for the visitors.
Those misses proved costly as Rudiger headed in from Luka Modric’s fine left-wing corner in the 78th minute. Real are now unbeaten in 18 games in all competitions.
The result had briefly taken Real three points clear at the top, before second-placed Girona moved back level on points thanks to a 91st-minute winning goal from Ivan Martin as they beat third-placed Atletico Madrid 4-3.
Both Real and Girona have 48 points from 19 matches at the halfway point in the Spanish league season, with the Madrid side top thanks to a better goal difference.
Rare Rudiger goal proves the difference
This was the first game since boss Carlo Ancelotti ended speculation linking him with the Brazil national team as he extended his Real contract, committing him to the club until at least 2026.
Ancelotti was boosted by the return of Vinicius Jr, playing his first club game in almost two months following a hamstring injury sustained on Brazil duty in November.
Vinicius twice had efforts saved by Predrag Rajkovic – one attempt from a tight angle and another strike from outside the penalty area. But Mallorca, 14th in the table, twice hit the frame of the goal as they looked to gain a shock win.
England’s Jude Bellingham is the top scorer in La Liga this season with 13 goals, but his best attempt was a diving header from Modric’s cross which away goalkeeper Rajkovic jumped to save. After Mallorca hit the post, Real dominated as they pushed for a fourth successive win in all competitions and their ninth in their past 10 games.
They should have gone ahead when Rodrygo’s shot was parried into Brahim Diaz’s path but the substitute hit the post with a diving header when faced with an unguarded goal only a few yards out. But Diaz’s blushes were spared thanks to Rudiger’s goal, his first in La Liga since 11 September 2022 when he scored in a 4-1 victory over Mallorca.
Morata hat-trick not enough for Atletico
Girona are playing in the Spanish top-flight for only the fourth season in their history and have never finished higher than 10th. However, they are level on points with Real and 10 points ahead of both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, although Barca have a game in hand.
Against Atletico, Girona scored inside the opening two minutes through Valery Fernandez’s curled shot from 20 yards, before Alvaro Morata equalised from Antoine Griezmann’s pass.
Savio restored Girona’s lead after Martin’s shot had been parried and ex-Manchester United defender Daley Blind’s close-range volley made it 3-1. Former Chelsea striker Morata scored twice more, from two Rodrigo de Paul assists, to complete his hat-trick and make it 3-3, but it was not enough as Martin shot into the top corner in the first minute of injury time for a dramatic winner.