Real Madrid defeated Real Sociedad 2-1 to reclaim the top spot in La Liga on Sunday evening. FC Barcelona and Real both have 65 points in 30 matches. Barca has a superior goal difference but have fallen to second place. Zinedine Zidane‘s men went ahead thanks to their favourable head-to-head record.
Zidane knew that Real Madrid would need a victory to put themselves ahead of their rivals, who previously drew 0-0 against Sevilla on Friday. James Rodriguez was handed a rare start in Sunday’s game. Vinicius Junior was also included in the starting line-up.
The visitors were frustrated during the opening half as sixth-ranked Real Sociedad fought hard against the Madrid side and ensured that the first half remained goalless.
Sergio Ramos scored the first goal of the match and put Real Madrid 1-0 up. He scored from a penalty in the 50th minute after Vinicius was brought down inside the box. In the process, Ramos became La Liga‘s all-time top-scoring defender.
The Real Madrid captain overtook former Barca man Ronald Koeman, after scoring the 68th goal of his top-flight career.
The 34-year-old was soon forced off because of a knee injury, following a clash with Alexander Isak in an attempt to deny the home side a scoring opportunity. Later, he was seen with his knee heavily strapped and iced as he limped to his seat. Eder Militao came on the field in the 60th minute as a substitute for the Madrid captain.
In the 70th minute, Karim Benzema doubled Real Madrid’s lead by beating Sociedad‘s defence with a controversial goal. He controlled the ball with his shoulder before firing the shot, and several opponents appealed for a handball. However, VAR determined that he used a legal touch with his shoulder and the goal was given.
The hosts scored one back in the 83rd minute when Mikel Merino found himself alone at the far post. He didn’t fail to put the ball into the roof of the net to minimise the goal deficit.
Earlier in the 69th minute, 25-year old Belgian Adnan Januzaj smashed past Thibaut Courtois into the bottom corner of the goal post. The linesman raised the flag because Merino was blocking Courtois’ line of sight while in an offside position. However, none of the players and staff in the Sociedad bench could believe such a judgement.
Goal quoted Merino saying, “We’re angry with everything but mainly with the way we lost because the little details and the big moments went against us. I was at least five metres from [Thibaut] Courtois when I was flagged offside. I don’t know if the same thing would have happened had it been in the other area but the flag went up and we feel that we have been wronged.”
However, Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde believed that his side deserved the three points. He said that although Sociedad was a tough opponent, Real emerged as the superior team on Sunday.
Real now has a foothold in the league rankings. If both Barca and Los Blancos finish the campaign level on points, Real will eventually lift the title, given their head-to-head record. If that happens, questions might be raised about Quique Setien and his future at the Camp Nou.