La Liga: Ronaldo-less Madrid too strong for Moyes' Sociedad
Real Madrid recovered from an awful start to move four points clear at the top of La Liga with a 4-1 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday
Madrid: Real Madrid recovered from an awful start to move four points clear at the top of La Liga with a 4-1 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday. With World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo missing through suspension, Madrid were stunned in the first minute when Aritz Elustondo headed the visitors into a shock lead, but they were level almost instantly when James Rodriguez nodded home.
Sergio Ramos handed the hosts a deserved 2-1 lead at half-time before Karim Benzema scored twice after the break. Second-placed Barcelona aren't in action until Sunday when they host Villarreal, while champions Atletico Madrid take on Eibar later on Saturday.
Sociedad boss David Moyes hadn't lost to Real coach Carlo Ancelotti in six previous meetings when they were in charge of Everton and Chelsea respectively, and Sociedad had already shown their ability to upset the odds with victory over Madrid and Barcelona at home this season.
Moyes's men couldn't have hoped for a better start when youngster Elustondo bulleted Ruben Pardo's corner past Iker Casillas with barely a minute gone. However, the Basques have yet to win away from home this season and their fragility was exposed just two minutes later when Rodriguez sneaked ahead of his marker to head Marcelo's cross into the top corner.
The visitors then suffered a huge blow when top scorer Carlos Vela limped off after just 17 minutes and the Mexican's absence sapped Sociedad of any attacking threat thereafter as the European champions pilled on the pressure. Benzema and Rodriguez fired straight at Geronimo Rulli when well-placed inside the area, while Gareth Bale saw a header flash just wide.
Rulli denied Benzema again from a narrow angle eight minutes before the break, but the ball fell kindly for Ramos to rifle home his sixth goal of the season. Bale missed a huge opportunity to make it three before the break as he took Benzema's pass off the toes of Rodriguez, but somehow managed to fire wide of an open goal.
The Welshman didn't take long to make amends, though, when he teed up Benzema for a simple tap in to put the game beyond Sociedad six minutes into the second period. Bale was then denied by a goal-line clearance from Inigo Martinez with Rulli out of position.
However, there was no stopping Benzema 14 minutes from time as he exchanged passes with Isco before thrashing the ball high into the far corner for his 17th goal of the season. Bale's chance to make his mark in Ronaldo's absence was frustrated one final time when he broke clear on goal, but Rulli stood tall again to block with his legs.