Real Madrid held on for a hugely important 2-1 victory at high-flying Real Sociedad that sees them now top La Liga on head-to-head record over rivals Barcelona.
After an uneventful opening half hour, Karim Benzema saw his left-footed shot saved by Álex Remiro from close range. There were few chances created before half time, apart from a Vinícius effort which was saved comfortably.
Los Blancos started the second half with an attacking focus and soon won a penalty through Diego Llorente’s foul on Vinícius. Up stepped Ramos, who calmly slotted the ball past Remiro to put his team in front.
After the centre-back was forced off with injury, the hosts grew into the game and saw substitute Adnan Januzaj’s strike ruled out for offside. It was a pivotal decision, and minutes later Benzema’s close-range shot wrong-footed the goalkeeper to double the visitors’ lead – even that goal coming with some controversy, with a VAR check on a potential handball before the strike.
Despite Mikel Merino’s thumping late goal, the away side held on for a crucial victory in an incredibly close title race.
Key Talking Point
With news emerging that Martin Ødegaard i set to stay at Txuri-urdinak for the 2020/21 La Liga season, all eyes were on the young Norwegian to impress in front of the watching Zinedine Zidane, in order to show why he deserves to remain in Madrid’s future plans.
But while the 21-year-old had plenty of touches on the ball in the first half, he was never able to create a threatening chance for his teammates. Instead, he was restricted to simple short passes, without being able to cause Casemiro any problems, and was later substituted as his team looked elsewhere for an attacking spark.
Granted, he wasn’t the only Sociedad player who struggled to exert any influence into the game. Alexander Isak also failed to get into the game, as did Mikel Oyarzabal, with both also coming off in the second half.
But it will feel like a missed opportunity for the young Ødegaard, who showed he still has plenty of development left in him before becoming a regular for Los Blancos.
Starting XI: Álex Remiro (6); Gorosabel (6), Llorente (6), Le Normand (6), Monreal (6); Zubeldia (6), Merino (7); Portu (6), Ødegaard (6), Oyarzabal (6); Isak (6).
Substitutes: Elustondo (6), Januzaj (7), López (7), Willian José (N/A), Zubimendi (N/A).
With Sociedad’s usual stars misfiring in this game, it was Mikel Merino who stood out for the hosts.
The Spaniard showed off his great passing ability and worked very hard throughout the game, as well as netting a superb strike to give his team faint hopes of a comeback.
Key Talking Point
You would have been forgiven for forgetting James Rodríguez was still at Real Madrid. The Colombian had not played in La Liga since October, but was surprisingly given the start ahead of both Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard.
There was little for him to do in the first half, unable to find the ball at times. While he was solid in his defensive duties, it was for his attacking abilities that he was chosen for, yet he was unable to provide a spark for the visitors.
In the second half, the 28-year-old continued to struggle in impacting the game – so much so that he was forced to drift inwards in an effort to find the ball – yet still found himself on the game’s periphery, and was substituted with the win secured towards the end.
In a rare audition to prove he still has a future at the Santiago Bernabéu, Rodríguez failed to take his chance, leaving him to ponder where he will go from here.
Starting XI: Courtois (6); Carvajal (6), Varane (6), Ramos (6), Marcelo (6); Kroos (7), Casemiro (6), Valverde (7); Rodríguez (6), Benzema (7), Vinícius (8*).
Substitutes: Militão (6), Asensio (N/A), Mariano (N/A), Mendy (N/A), Modrić (N/A).
Every time Los Blancos created an attacking chance, Vinícius Junior always looked to be involved.
His speed made the winger a constant threat, and he used his superb dribbling skills to great effect in keeping the opposing defenders on their toes at every moment. The Brazilian was one of the few able to create a clear chance in the first half, and it was his jinking run in the box that earned his team the penalty that gave them the lead.
Sociedad next host relegation-threatened Celta Vigo on Wednesday, while Los Blancos host Mallorca on the same night.