Real Madrid responded in style to Barcelona’s record-breaking, 16th consecutive league victory, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way in a 4-1 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Ronaldo was charged up for the game after being criticized for not scoring in four matches and having seen Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick in Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
That victory saw Pep Guardiola’s side surpass the run of 15 victories set by Alfredo Di Stefano’s Real Madrid team of 1960-1961 and put them 10 points clear at the top.
“I have already said that even if Ronaldo’s season ended now, it would still have been fantastic. He always works hard and gives everything for the team,” Real coach Jose Mourinho said after his side cut the gap to Barcelona back to seven points. “It is more difficult for players up against him because they are afraid to tackle in case they don’t get the ball. They kick him, but he is strong and can cope with it.”
Real, with Emmanuel Adebayor given a starting place after his goal in the Copa del Rey against Sevilla in midweek, pressed forward from the start, with the visitors encamped in their own penalty area.
Sociedad were nervous in possession and a poor clearance from Gorka Elustondo fell to Kaka and the Brazilian slotted the ball into the corner after just seven minutes.
Ronaldo was toying with the Sociedad defense and showing his full repertoire of flicks and back-heels. He turned his man on the edge of the area and was given time to find his spot with his left foot to add to the lead. Before halftime, he powered home a header from a corner to notch up his 25th goal of the season and retake the lead in the goal-scoring charts from Messi.
Kaka hit the post and Adebayor miskicked in front of goal as Real continued to pressure, but it was Sociedad who pulled a goal back with a rare foray forward. Raul Tamudo’s shot was blocked by goalkeeper Iker Casillas, but the rebound cannoned off Alvaro Arbeloa into the goal.
Adebayor had the last say for Real with a cool finish in the final minutes.
“It is important that we do not give away the title,” Mourinho said. “I have only finished second once and that was in my third season with Chelsea, but if we finish second then it is not a problem.”
Sociedad coach Martin Lasarte admitted his side was well beaten.
“It was the right result. We had some chances, but they had a lot more and we did not play how we set out to do,” Lasarte said.
Valencia kept up their impressive form with a 2-0 win over Hercules and moved onto the shoulders of third-placed Villarreal.
Valencia have now won six of their last seven games and took full advantage of Villarreal’s shock 1-0 defeat at home to lowly Levante.
Hercules may be fighting relegation, but they have produced some surprise results, including a victory at the Camp Nou against Barcelona and it was a tight opening to the game. Valencia had more possession, though, and in the run up to halftime Mehmet Topal hit the post, before Aritz Aduriz gave them the lead after beating the off-side trap.
Valencia looked stronger following the break and took full control of the match when Tino Costa curled home a free-kick.
“In the first half we found it difficult to go forward and the game was fairly even though we were winning at halftime. After that, we improved and we deserved to win,” Valencia coach Unai Emery said. “Below Barcelona and Real Madrid it is very tight and there is not much separating the teams.”