BARCELONA (AFP): Girona striker Taty Castellanos hit an incredible four goals as his side thrashed champions Real Madrid 4-2 in La Liga on Tuesday, helping leaders Barcelona edge closer to the trophy.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are 11 points behind Barcelona having played one extra match, with this defeat virtually killing any hope they had remaining of defending the title. Fourth-place Real Sociedad earned a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Real Betis to frustrate the Andalusians, fifth, ensuring a six-point gap remains between them.
Girona’s Castellanos was left in tears after missing a big chance against Barcelona earlier in April in a goalless draw, but made amends in spectacular fashion at Montilivi against Madrid.
The Argentine striker, on loan at Girona from New York City FC — owned by the City group — exposed gaps in Madrid’s defence ahead of their Champions League semi-final tie against Manchester City in May.
Castellanos shut down his social media accounts after his bad night in front of goal at Camp Nou, but thanked those close to him for their support. “It was a dream night, we had a great game against one of the best teams in the world, it was a dream night,” Castellanos said.
“I never imagined this, (I’m) enjoying it with our fans, with the people who have sent me support — my family, people in Argentina, they are always supporting me and that’s fundamental.”
In April 2022 Castellanos hit four goals for New York City against Real Salt Lake and repeated the trick a little over a year later. “Obviously they are different days, it was a dream to score against Madrid and to score four — you can’t even imagine it,” he added. “I’m very happy for everything, for the fans, for the lads.”
Castellanos now has 11 goals in La Liga this season in 29 appearances. Ancelotti had said his team needed to stay in a positive winning dynamic in the league to stay at the top of their game in Europe, but badly took their eye off the ball in Girona.
“A tough night, yes, when you lose a game like that it’s a tough night,” said the Italian. “On a defensive level it was a bad game, and that was the key to the match… the individual level was lower than normal too.
“Everybody’s was, not just some people. The level was very low, because the defensive aspect, which was very good in recent games, today, we have forgotten.”
Ancelotti was hampered by striker Karim Benzema taking a knock in the win over Celta Vigo at the weekend, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois did not travel because of a stomach problem among other absentees.
Former Madrid defender Miguel Gutierrez set up the opening goal with a cross for Castellanos, which he headed home from six yards out after 12 minutes. Castellanos doubled Girona’s lead after 24 minutes when he got in behind Eder Militao and blasted through Andriy Lunin’s legs.
Vinicius Junior pulled one back for Real Madrid with a header from Marco Asensio’s fine inswinging cross, giving them hope of a second half comeback. However Castellanos netted his third just 36 seconds after the interval after a fine run and cross from Yan Couto.
The striker pounced again after 62 minutes, again capitalising on a Militao mistake to net his and Girona’s fourth.Lucas Vazquez pulled another back for Madrid late on after more good work by Vinicius, but it was too little, too late.
Sociedad hold firm
Real Sociedad dug deep to clinch a goalless draw with Real Betis, to tighten their grip on Champions League qualification for next season. It was a game of few clear chances, but Sergio Canales could have fired Betis in front after 74 minutes, firing inches over after good work by Juan Miranda.
Rui Silva saved well from Real Sociedad midfielder Mikel Merino’s drive deep into stoppage time at the other end. Betis had the better of the second half but could not find the winner their fans craved and next travel to champions-in-waiting Barcelona on Saturday.
Osasuna beat Cadiz 1-0 thanks to Ruben Garcia’s long-range goal, although they had winger Ez Abde sent off late on, minutes after coming off the bench.