Led by Jude Bellingham yet again, Real Madrid defeated Braga 2-1 on Tuesday to keep a perfect record in the UEFA Champions League 2023 and move closer to securing a spot in the knockout stage. Bellingham scored his 11th goal in 12 matches since joining Madrid to help the 14-time European champion earn the away victory and strengthen its lead in Group C. Madrid has nine points from three matches, three points more than Napoli, which won 1-0 at winless Union Berlin. Braga stayed in third place with three points.
Another win against Braga at home in the next round in November will guarantee Madrid a spot in the knockout stage for the 28th consecutive time. Braga has never advanced past the group stage. The Portuguese team is making its third Champions League appearance and first in 11 seasons.
___ Jude Bellingham since he joined Real Madrid in the summer_
__ 12 games
__ 11 goals
_ 3 assists
Rodrygo, who hadn’t scored since August, put Madrid ahead in the 16th minute with a shot from inside the area after a run by Vinícius Júnior down the left flank, and Bellingham added to the lead in the 61st with a low shot into the far corner after another assist by Vinícius.
Spaniard Álvaro Djaló pulled the hosts closer in the 63rd with a shot into the top corner. “It’s normal to suffer a little in away matches,” Vinícius said. “But we played well and scored the goals with the chances we created. And could’ve scored even more. We have to keep this run going after having won the first three matches.”
The 20-year-old Bellingham is yet to go consecutive games without scoring for Madrid. The Englishman has scored in each of the first three matchday’s in the Champions League for the second season in a row, after doing the same with Borussia Dortmund in 2022-23.
He controlled the pace of the game at midfield to help Madrid dominate early. Braga, which had won five in a row in all competitions, didn’t have any attempts on target in the first half.
The hosts improved after halftime and threatened Madrid through the end but couldn’t capitalize on a few late chances. The Brazilian duo of Rodrygo and Vinícius each had goals disallowed for offside, one in each half.
“The game was under control after Bellingham’s goal but after we conceded it changed the dynamics,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said.
Madrid now turns its focus to Saturday’s match against Barcelona in the first ‘clasico’ of the season in the Spanish league. Bellingham was replaced late against Braga with an apparent muscle discomfort but Ancelotti said it didn’t look like a serious problem.
Ancelotti wasn’t able to count on goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, defender Éder Militão and midfielder Arda Güler because of injuries. Braga saw striker Bruma, who was not fully fit, come into the match only in the second half. He had scored in five of Braga’s previous six European matches this season.
After the match, a member of Braga’s staff reportedly tried to confront Madrid defender Antonio Rüdiger and others had to intervene to end to the incident.