Real Madrid keeps an eight-point lead over Barcelona

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MADRID, April 1, (AP): Rodrygo thrived in the absence of Vinícius Júnior as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 to keep an eight-point lead over Barcelona in the Spanish league.
Rodrygo scored both goals and Madrid maintained its comfortable lead at the top after Barcelona had won 1-0 at Las Palmas.

Vinícius didn’t play because of a suspension over yellow cards, but Jude Bellingham was back in the squad after missing two straight league games because of a red-card suspension. The influential England international set up Rodrygo’s second goal in Madrid’s third straight league win.
Rodrygo’s opener came with a beautiful shot into the top corner from just outside the area eight minutes into the match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

The Brazil forward had scored for Brazil in a friendly against Spain at the Bernabeu last week, but he hadn’t found the net for Madrid in seven consecutive games.
“He played very well, made the difference with some high-quality plays,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said about Rodrygo.

The Brazilian said after the match he is not feeling threatened by the possible arrival of Kylian Mbappé.
“I think he is close (to being signed), from what everybody has been saying,” Rodrygo said. “I’m just focused on finishing the season well. It would be a nice problem for the coach to have next season. I’m not worried.”

Also back in Madrid’s squad was central defender Éder Militão, who had been out for eight months because of a knee injury. He came off the bench in stoppage time to loud cheers from the Bernabeu crowd.
Brahim Díaz, who was in for Vinícius, nearly added to Madrid’s lead in the 49th with a shot that hit the post.
Madrid wore its purple fourth uniform instead of its traditional white jersey.

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