San Sebastian, Spain, Jun 21 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid notched a well-earned 2-1 road win over Real Sociedad on Sunday, moving into the No. 1 spot in Spain’s La Liga table on goals from Sergio Ramos, on a penalty kick, and Karim Benzema.
The Reale Arena was semi-vacant despite the fact that the Madrid dynamo squad was competing.
The encounter was pretty much equal during the first half, although Real Madrid needed about an hour to settle into its groove and start to create danger for the hosts.
Coach Zinedine Zidane surprised observers with his lineup, leaving Luka Modric out and putting Colombia’s James, who has barely been used this season, into the mix to confront Real Sociedad.
Mikel Merino was back on the Sociedad roster after his two-game sanction, giving more solidity to midfield, but the host team had to be on the alert every second of the match, although the first half ended in a scoreless draw.
The capital squad, however, got things off to a good start for themselves four minutes after the break, when team captain Ramos faked out Real Sociedad goaltender Alex Remiro on a penalty kick after a tripping foul on Vinicius Junior by Diego Llorente just as he was preparing to shoot, thus becoming the highest scoring defender in La Liga history with 68 goals, surpassing former Barcelona defender Ronald Koeman with the tally.
Ramos was pulled in the 59th minute after taking a hit on his knee, and nine minutes later Sociedad’s Adnan Januzaj had a goal ruled out, sparking controversy when Merino was found to be offside.
Benzema put Madrid ahead by two goals in the 70th minute, but Merino sent a powerful blast into the net in the 82nd minute and it looked like the home team might be able to eke out a draw with that momentum.
But it was not to be as Madrid hung on to dislodge Barcelona from the top spot on the La Liga table at the end of the 30th week of First Division play.
Technically speaking, the capital side is even with Barca at 65 points – after the Catalonian’s lackluster scoreless draw against Sevilla last week – but are placed just ahead of their longtime rivals since they garnered four points in the squads’ two Clasico encounters earlier in the season.
Madrid welcomes Real Mallorca to its home turf and Sociedad is at home once again to play Celta Vigo, both on Wednesday.
Real Sociedad: Remiro; Gorosabel (Aritz, min. 59), Diego Llorente, Le Normand, Monreal; Zubeldia (Zubimendi, min. 79), Merino, Odegaard (Roberto Lopez, min. 79); Portu, Oyarzabal (Januzaj, min. 59), Isak (William Jose, min. 79).
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Sergio Ramos (Militao, min. 59), Marcelo (Wendy. min.88); Valverde (Modric, min. 88), Casemiro, Kroos; James (Mariano, min 78), Benzema (Asensio, min. 78), Vinicius.
Referee: Estrada Fernandez, showed yellow cards to Diego Llorente, Zubeldia, Gorosabel, Merino, Casemiro and Modric.
Goals: 0-1, min. 49: Sergio Ramos, penalty kick. 0-2, min. 70: Benzema. 1-2, min. 82: Merino.