Recap: Cristiano Ronaldo helped ease some of the pressure on Rafael Benitez with two goals in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Real Sociedad in their final match of 2015. The three-time Ballon d’Or winner missed the target from the penalty spot for the first time in 55 attempts in La Liga early on, but made no mistake when given a second attempt shortly before halftime. After Bruma scored a fine equalizer for the visitors, Ronaldo then put Real Madrid back in front with a superb volley from a corner, before substitute Lucas Vazquez made sure of the points late on. The win takes Real Madrid top of La Liga, a point above Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, although the former has one game in hand and the latter has two.
Benitez came into the game with reports in Spain suggesting a poor display could see his troubled reign cut short before 2016 was even rung in. And while he got the result he desperately needed, the performance was far from convincing against opponents who went into the fixture just two points above the relegation zone. Indeed, it took the benefit of some poor refereeing calls to give them the lead.
Although Benitez had alleged a media campaign against him and his club in the buildup to the match, everything on the pitch went in Madrid’s favor in the opening half. Sociedad were denied a penalty and saw both top scorer Immanol Agirretxe and former Real Madrid midfielder Sergio Caneles go off injured, the former thanks to a heavy, dangerous tackle from Keylor Navas that went unpunished. Meanwhile, Madrid were handed two incredibly dubious penalties. And Although Ronaldo skied the first, he slammed home the second.
Still Real Madrid looked shaky. And four minutes after halftime, substitute Bruma took advantage of Real Madrid’s lack of organization to curl home a wonderful equalizer. But as badly structured as Real Madrid’s team was, they retain some devastating attacking personnel. And that’s what ultimately gave them the points.
First, Ronaldo met a deep corner to the edge of the box with a superb left-footed volley into the bottom corner. Then as La Real pushed for an equalizer, Gareth Bale, who was the one bright spot for Real Madrid, found Lucas Vazquez to make the result safe. Against better and healthier opponents, though, Real Madrid will need to be far better.
FULLTIME! Real Madrid 3-1 Real Sociedad
Real Madrid and their manager get the win they needed, but it was far from the convincing performance Rafael Benitez will have wanted. Madrid got the benefit of everything going their way in the first half, including two dubious penalty calls, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring from the second having missed the first. But Bruma struck a superb and well-deserved equalizer after halftime to further the discontent at the Bernabeu.Although Real Madrid improved little, a stunning volley from Ronaldo and a late finish from Lucas Vazquez secured them the points.
Here's Vazquez's first goal for Real Madrid:
90 mins: Just three minutes of injury time to be played.
GOAL! Real Madrid 3-1 Real Sociedad (Vazquez, 86)
That’s game over now. Gareth Bale supplies a peach of a pass in from the left flank and substitute Lucas Vazquez controls it perfectly before coolly finishing low past Rulli to net his first goal for Real Madrid and secure them a much-needed win.
86 mins: They may be winning, but the Real Madrid fans are still far from happy and continue to whistle loudly from the stands. Sociedad are dominating possession, but the question is whether they have the cutting edge to punish Real Madrid.
83 mins: Real Madrid have beefed up their midfield, with Bale and Ronaldo being left alone up front since Vazquez's arrival, but Sociedad are still finding it pretty straightforward to play their way through Madrid’s center.
81 mins: Big chance for Real Sociedad. Vela cleverly finds Pardo, whose shot from 12 yards deflects wide of the post.
79 mins: Real Madrid appeal for another penalty, with a very similar scenario to the second one that was awarded in the first half. This time, though, the referee elects not to point to the spot.
76 mins: Real Madrid make their second change with Lucas Vazquez replacing Karim Benzema.
75 mins: There are still opportunities there for La Real if they believe they can get something out of this game. The defending from Madrid again left much to be desired as Bruma was able to manufacture space for a shot in a crowded penalty area, but this time it was blocked by a defender.
Here's a look at Ronaldo's brilliant volleyed goal:
69 mins: La Real immediately bring on Carlos Vela in place of Jonathas, with a change that had been readied before they fell behind. A big test for the visitors to respond a second time, but Madrid have shown that they are far from watertight. It’s the threat at the other end that they have to guard against, illustrated by Benzema just testing Rulli with a fierce shot.
GOAL! Real Madrid 2-1 Real Sociedad (Ronaldo, 67)
Real Madrid have not played well by any means, but with the attacking talent at their disposal they can always threaten. And this is a perfect example as Ronaldo meets a deep corner to the egde of the box perfectly with a left-footed volley to take the ball low into the corner of Rulli’s net. A superb strike by Ronaldo to get his second goal of the match and ease some of the pressure on his manager.
64 mins: The dissent from the Bernabeu crowd is becoming increasingly audible. There’s now near constant whistles, accompanied by loud boos. Certainly worrying signs for Benitez, whose best hope now is his attacking talent bailing him out.
61 mins: Kovacic is getting heavily involved after coming on, and the former Inter Milan midfielder serves up a cross to Benzema, but he can only head straight down at Rulli.
59 mins: But Real Madrid still possess great attacking quality, which they show with James playing through Bale, whose shot is well turned behind by the impressive Rulli. And that was James’ last action of the match, as he gets taken off for Kovacic.
58 mins: Real Madrid are all over the place right now, and are in serious danger of losing this match. Bruma almost got through again after a return pass from Jonathas. Benitez clearly senses the problem and is preparing to bring on Mateo Kovacic.
Here's Bruma's superb equalizer:
54 mins: Just for a second Bruma thought he was on to give Sociedad the lead. The scorer of the first goal raced in behind the Real Madrid defense, but his touch just let him down, allowing Navas to race from his goal and strip the ball from the pacey youngster.
50 mins: Big questions for Real Madrid to answer. They try to produce an immediate response but Ronaldo’s volley at the back post only finds the side netting.
GOAL! Real Madrid 1-1 Real Sociedad (Bruma, 49)
That’s a wonderful strike from the Portugal Under-21 international to get his first La Liga goal. After shaking off Pepe, Jonathas’ mishit shot finds its way to the feet of Bruma on the left of the box and he takes full advantage of the space afforded him by curling a fine shot into the far corner past Navas. Benitez is furious on the sideline, and well he might be. Despite everything going in their favor in this match, they are now level.
48 mins: Sociedad have the first effort of the second half with substitute Ruben Pardo curling a free-kick over the crossbar.
Second half kicks off!
Here's Ronaldo's goal from the penalty spot:
HALFTIME! Real Madrid 1-0 Real Sociedad
Benitez claimed in the buildup to the match that there was a media campaign against him and his club, but everything imaginable went in their favor in that first half. As well as Real Sociedad seeing both Immanol Agirretxe and Sergio Canales go off injured, the former for a challenge from Keylor Navas that was lucky to escape punishment, Madrid had two dubious at best penalties awarded. While Cristiano Ronaldo missed the first, he slammed home the second. Add to that La Real having a strong penalty claim of their own turned down for Pepe’s challenge on Jonathas and they have plenty of reasons to feel aggrieved. Still, the Real Madrid fans understandably remain far from convinced and greeted the halftime whistle with loud whistles.
45 mins: Meanwhile, Ruben Pardo has replaced Canales.
GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Real Sociedad (Ronaldo, 42)
Ronaldo makes no mistake this time, sticking it to Rulli’s left. But Real Sociedad must feel hugely hard done by. As well as losing Agirretxe and now Illarramendi to injury, they’ve seen Keylor Navas go unpunished for a dangerous challenge and two penalties awarded against them that were highly questionable at best and perhaps more accurately just plain wrong.
40 mins: Another penalty to Real Madrid!
And that’s another hugely questionable call. Bale sends in a cross and Yuri dives in just a couple of yards away to block it, the ball comes off his thigh and strikes his outstretched arm. Meanwhile, the taking of the penalty is being delayed, with Canels receiving treatment.
38 mins: Real Madrid are having plenty of shots, but they’re all being direct too close to Rulli, The Sociedad goalkeeper has just made another save, holding a left-footed effort from Benzema.
37 mins: Real Madrid hit back with an effort of their own, and this one is on target, but Luka Modric’s drive from 20 yards is straight at Rulli, who palms it to safety.
35 mins: A chance for Jonathas to give Sociedad the lead. A cross from the left is slightly behind him, but he does well to get a firm header to it, yet can only direct it inches wide of the target. On the sideline, Benitez does not look happy.
Here's a look at the dubious penalty award and Ronaldo's miss:
33 mins: Sociedad full-back Yuri has just been given the first yellow card of the game, for a lunging tackle from behind on Bale.
31 mins: Inigo Martinez does well to take the ball off the toes of Karim Benzema after a nice move from Real Madrid got their striker in behind.
29 mins: Showing just how rare that penalty miss was by Ronaldo, it is apparently the first time he has missed the target in La Liga in 55 attempts.
#OJOALDATO - Cristiano Ronaldo ha lanzado 55 penaltis en La Liga y el de hoy es el primero que dispara fuera.
— MisterChip (Alexis) (@2010MisterChip) December 30, 2015
26 mins: It has to be said, too, that looking again at Navas’ challenge on Agirretxe that forced him to go off, had that been committed by any other player other than a goalkeeper and anywhere else on the pitch, it could well have been a red card. The Madrid goalkeeper went in very dangerously. So La Real will feel they’ve been on the wrong end of two poor decisions so far.
24 mins: And Ronaldo has missed it! Usually unwavering from the spot, the three-time Ballon d’Or winner skies his spot kick over the bar. La Real will certainly feel that’s justice served, after a penalty that should never have been awarded in the first place.
23 mins: Penalty to Real Madrid!
That looks very soft as Benzema goes down under very limited contact from Yuri.
21 mins: Sociedad are showing they’re comfortable in possession, although they could now lack that real focal point in attack. Jonathas, who has now moved through the middle after Agirretxe’s exit, has just hit a tame shot straight at Navas.
17 mins: Indeed Agirretxe cannot continue and is being taken on a stretcher down the tunnel. That’s a big early blow for Sociedad, losing the player who has scored 12 of their 17 league goals this season. Portuguese winger Bruma is coming on as a replacement.
14 mins: A real opening for Sociedad. Nacho and Marcelo failed to deal with a cross into the box, allowing Imanol Agirretxe to turn and get through on goal, but Navas came out and made himself big to prevent the striker from adding to his 12 goals in La Liga this season. Agirretxe has taken what looks like a heavy blow for his troubles, and may not be able to continue.
12 mins: La Real are playing a brave game in pressing Real Madrid high up the pitch, and they’re having some early success, forcing the hosts into errors. After a good spell of pressure, Inigo Martinez has headed a corner wide of Keylor Navas’ goal.
9 mins: The first big chances arrive for Real Madrid. First Bale unselfishly laid the ball square for Ronaldo after being played through by James Rodriguez, but the Portuguese star had his shot blocked by Rulli. And the Sociedad was called into action yet again seconds later when repelling a volley from Karim Benzema.
7 mins: As well as Illarramendi, Sociedad also have another Real Madrid player in their starting lineup in Sergio Caneles. The playmaker secured a big more to Real Madrid in 2010 when he was seen as the next big thing in Spain, but it never worked out for him at the Bernabeu. He’ll certainly have extra motivation to want to impress today.
5 mins: Real Madrid win the first corner of the match after Gareth Bale got in behind, and Pepe’s header forces a fine acrobatic save from Geronimo Rulli to turn it over the bar.
1 min: Benitez was greeted with his now customary whistles after emerging from the tunnel, emphasizing further how much he could do with a convincing win today.
9:55 a.m. EST: Both team lineups have been announced. Real Madrid welcome back Toni Kroos, but are still without captain Sergio Ramos. The BBC of Gareth Bale Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo will line up in attack. Sociedad, meanwhile, make several changes from their 2-0 loss to Villarreal, including the absence of former Real Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero. Carlos Vela also drops to the bench.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) December 30, 2015
XI #RealSociedad 1-Rulli 2-C. Martínez 4-Illarra 5-Markel 6-Iñigo 9-Agirretxe 10-X.Prieto (c) 16-Canales 19-Yuri 22-Jonathas 30-Aritz
— Real Sociedad (@RealSociedadEN) December 30, 2015
Preview: Rafael Benitez will be desperate to engineer some much-needed New Year cheer when Real Madrid take on Real Sociedad in their last outing of 2015. For Benitez, just six months into his reign at the Bernabeu, the pressure is heating up, with reports in Spain even suggesting that a defeat against their relegation-threatened opponents on Wednesday could spell the end.
It is a curious position for him to be in. This month alone he has led Real Madrid to a joint-record Champions League win, when crushing Malmo 8-0, as well as becoming the first team in more than half a century to score double figures in a Primera Division match, courtesy of a 10-2 demolition of Rayo Vallecano. Yet while it has long been Benitez’s dream to return to the club he started out with as a player and a coach, the two have always felt like ill-fitting bedfellows.
Even when the results were impressive, there was criticism about the perceived cautious style of play. And since a 4-0 defeat to Clásico foes Barcelona last month, which was followed by a defeat to Villarreal two weeks ago, the knives have really been out. Just this week there have been claims that Real Madrid have phoned season-ticket holders to poll who they would prefer to coach the team, while Benitez has alleged there is a media campaign against him and the club.
Real Madrid go into Wednesday’s clash two points behind joint leaders Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, with Barcelona still having a game in hand. And Madrid will again be without captain Sergio Ramos.
Real Sociedad have been enduring anything but a spectacular season themselves. Currently sitting 14th in La Liga, just two points off the relegation zone, last month La Real dispensed with the services of former Manchester United manager David Moyes and turned to former Barcelona B coach Eusebio Sacristán.
Results have not improved dramatically since, although they have lost just one of their last four games in all competitions. And in their quest to topple Real Madrid they will be able to call upon midfielder Asier Illarramendi, who left the Bernabeu this past summer to return to San Sebastián, as well as striker Imanol Agirretxe, who has scored 12 of the team’s 17 league goals this season.
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