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Díaz Steps Up in Bellingham's Absence, Leads Real Madrid to Victory Over Leipzig

Photo: Vlad Indrei

February 13, 2023

LEIPZIG, Germany  — Brahim Díaz's celebration after scoring the winning goal for Real Madrid mirrored his injured teammate Jude Bellingham's signature move, an act of solidarity that resonated through the squad.

“Oh my god Brahim!!!,” Bellingham exclaimed on X, echoing the team's elation after the crucial goal.

Stepping up in Bellingham’s absence, Díaz propelled Madrid to a 1-0 victory against Leipzig in the round of 16 of the Champions League.

“I really like Jude, from the moment he arrived we’ve been getting along,” Díaz expressed. “He is a world-class talent, and we are enjoying having him around. He is a great person as well, and I’m very thankful to him.”

Bellingham, a standout performer for Madrid this season, was sidelined due to an ankle sprain sustained in a Spanish league match over the weekend. The English midfielder boasts an impressive record of 20 goals in 29 games across all competitions this season, including four goals and three assists in five Champions League appearances. His absence is anticipated to last two to three weeks.

The return leg is scheduled for March 6 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.

“We aren’t happy with the result because we had more chances to score and didn’t do that,” lamented Leipzig midfielder Dani Olmo. “Brahim Díaz has a lot of quality and seized his chance. Real Madrid is one of the best teams in Europe. You have to make the most of your chances against opponents like that.”

In another Champions League fixture, Manchester City triumphed 3-1 against FC Copenhagen.

Díaz's goal showcased his skill and determination, weaving past three Leipzig defenders before slotting the ball into the top corner with a left-footed strike in the 48th minute.

“I saw they were afraid of coming after me,” Díaz reflected. “I’m happy to have helped with the goal and how the team worked hard to make up for the absence of Jude and the other injured players. It showed that we are still a good team, that we are Real Madrid.”

However, Díaz's jubilation was short-lived as he limped off with a muscle injury late in the game, his condition yet to be determined.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti faced defensive challenges yet again, fielding midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni alongside Nacho Fernández in central defense due to several injuries.

Leipzig dominated possession and created numerous opportunities, but Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin's stellar performance kept the hosts at bay.

“It wasn’t easy,” Ancelotti admitted. “We were dangerous on counterattacks, but Lunin played a great match. We have a slight advantage, but there’s still a lot to play for.”

Leipzig remains determined to overturn the deficit in the return leg, with coach Marco Rose emphasizing their intent to push Madrid to their limits.

Madrid’s consistent presence in the round of 16 underscores its prowess in the tournament, a legacy that extends back to 2003-04. With a record 14 European titles, including the most recent victory in 2022, Madrid remains a formidable force in European football.

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