Barcelona, 22 June 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Real Madrid earned a controversial 2-1 win at Real Sociedad on Sunday to go top of La Liga, ahead of Barcelona on their head-to-head record, capitalizing on the reigning champions’ draw at Sevilla.
The fate of Zinedine Zidane’s team, who was fortunate to have several calls go their way at the Reale Arena, is now in their own hands as wins in all of their remaining eight matches would see them be crowned champions.
Despite the tantalizing prize of going top on offer, Madrid played lethargically in the first half against Real Sociedad, missing the spark of Eden Hazard.
Zidane handed James Rodriguez a surprise start in place of the Belgian, who had looked good in the first two games back after the season resumed after the coronavirus hiatus.
Madrid‘s defensive midfielder Casemiro was lucky only to earn a booking for an elbow on Mikel Merino, although he is now suspended for the visit of Mallorca on Wednesday.
Vinicius Junior went down in the box under minor pressure and Madrid were awarded a penalty in the 50th minute, with Sergio Ramos coolly dispatching it to become the league’s top scoring defender of all time, with 68 goals.
Ramos was later replaced by Eder Militao after hobbling off with a knee complaint.
Madrid conceded after Adnan Januzaj drove home from distance, but the goal was disallowed because keeper Thibaut Courtois’ view was adjudged to be blocked by Merino, offside.
“I think I was far from Courtois … he had more than enough time to see the ball,” said Merino. “They did not hesitate one second in raising the flag, if it had been me at the other end there would have been doubts.”
Moments later Karim Benzema fired home Madrid‘s second although the ball struck his upper arm in the build up, with Real Sociedad players claiming in vain for handball.
Merino pulled one back for the hosts in the final stages to create a frantic finale but Madrid held on to move top.
“It’s a penalty on Vinicius and Karim’s goal is legal, that’s what I’ve been told,” said Zidane.
“I don’t get involved in controversy because there’s a referee to take care of that, I only want to think about our deserved victory.
“It annoys me that in the end they only talk about the referees and it’s like we haven’t done anything on the pitch. We can’t control what they say, we win on the pitch and today we’ve done that.”
Earlier, Goncalo Guedes scored his first goal of the season as Valencia beat Osasuna 2-0 to stay in the hunt for a European place, while Celta Vigo thumped 10-man Alaves 6-0.
Portuguese winger Guedes has struggled to hit top form this campaign but broke the deadlock at Mestalla with a brilliant individual dribble and finish in the 12th minute.
Rodrigo netted the second after being sent through on goal by the electric Guedes to give Valencia a comfortable lead.
Los Che’s win moved them within a point of seventh place and a Europa League qualifying spot for next season.
Celta were unstoppable at Balaidos as they secured an impressive victory to move 16th, four points clear of the relegation zone.
Goals from Jeison Murillo and Iago Aspas had them in control before Alaves saw Martin Aguirregabiria sent off after 27 minutes for a lunge at Rafinha Alcantara.
Former Barcelona midfielder Rafinha got his revenge with goals in the 40th and 41st minutes as Celta racked up a big lead.
Nolito, who rejoined his former side Celta this week as an emergency signing, scored from the penalty spot and Santi Mina wrapped up the win four minutes from time.
Alaves, 13th, are nine points from safety and could be dragged into the relegation battle.