Real Madrid rebounded from their midweek Copa del Rey elimination with a 3-0 victory over Real Sociedad on a rainy Sunday night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Mateo Kovacic and Cristiano Ronaldo hooked up on the first two goals with Ronaldo assisting Kovacic’s opener and the Croatian finding the Portuguese for the second. Alvaro Morata then added a late goal to complete the scoring.
It was a workmanlike win for Los Blancos against a Real Sociedad side that showed they had plenty of football, but just lacked the cutting edge to do any damage. The victory also extends Real’s lead atop the La Liga table to four points ahead of second-place Barcelona.
With Marcelo, Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and of course Gareth Bale all sidelined with injuries, manager Zinedine Zidane once again had to shuffle around his starting XI. Centre-back Nacho slotted in at left-back while Danilo — not exactly a favourite right now among the Bernabeu faithful — started at right-back. Kovacic took Modric’s place in the middle while Lucas Vazquez joined Ronaldo and Karim Benzema up front.
There were chances for both sides at the start. Mikel Oyarzabal used his speed to get free on the touchline in the match’s opening minutes, but his cutback pass into the area did not reach a dark shirt. Lucas Vazquez then did some fine solo work on the touchline to nearly put Los Blancos up, but Raul Navas stepped in and cleared his cross before it could reach Benzema.
The visitors coped well with the pressure being placed on them by Real and managed to play out of the back without too many issues. Meanwhile, the hosts were imprecise in the final third and with every giveaway or error, the whistles inside the antsy Bernabeu grew louder.
Real needed a spark and they would get one from an unlikely source, as Kovacic struck toward the end of the half to hand Real a 1-0 lead. Ronaldo did well to feed a pass forward to Kovacic right as three defenders were closing in, and the Croatia international did the rest, finishing strongly past Rulli for the goal.
Just like they showed in their midweek Copa defeat at the Camp Nou, Real Sociedad were going to battle and some excellent combination play between Juanmi, Oyarzabal and Sergio Canales almost saw Juanmi score an equaliser right before half-time on a right-footer that sliced just wide.
Real Sociedad looked to pull level to start the second half, and just when they were building momentum Real stopped the Basques in their tracks and struck for their second goal of the night. Kovacic returned the favour from his goal with a pinpoint pass into Ronaldo, who got in behind Kevin Rodrigues and lifted a shot over Rulli to make it 2-0.
Eusebio looked to his bench to try to get his team back into the match, opting for Xabi Prieto and Carlos Vela, but Real continued to control things and looked closer to a third goal rather than a first for Real Sociedad. Moments after substitute Alvaro Morata had a goal correctly annulled, Rulli passed right to Lucas Vazquez, but the visiting stopper made up for his gaffe and saved the shot. Inigo Martinez was then sent off, leaving Real Sociedad with 10 men, making what was already an uphill climb even steeper.
Real put the match on ice in the final 10 minutes when Danilo played down the right to Lucas Vazquez, who swung a cross in at the far post for Morata, whose header beat Rulli for a 3-0 lead to wrap up the scoring.
Los Blancos return to action next Sunday with a visit to Vigo to face Celta.
– Match Sheet:
3.- Real Madrid: Keylor; Danilo, Ramos, Varane, Nacho; Casemiro, Kroos, Kovacic (Isco, min. 77); Lucas (Asensio, min. 84), Benzema (Morata, min. 66), Cristiano.
0.- Real Sociedad: Rulli; Zaldua, Raul Navas, Inigo, Kevin Rodrigues; Illarra, Canales (Granero, min. 78), Zurutuza; Oyarzabal (Xabi Prieto, min 57), Juanmi, Willian Jose (Vela, min. 57).
Goals: 1-0, min. 38: Kovacic; 2-0, min. 51: Ronaldo, 3-0, min. 83: Morata
Referee: Melero Lopez (Andalusian).
Bookings: Inigo Martinez (Min. 6) for Real Sociedad, Kroos (Min. 40) for Real Madrid, Rodrigues (Min. 71) for Real Sociedad, Lucas Vazquez (Min. 77) for Real Madrid.
Red cards: Inigo Martinez (Min. 74) for Real Sociedad.
Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu.