Real Madrid went into Anoeta without several key players and won (Mayoral, Rodrigues OG, Bale; Rodrigues) a massive, hard-fought game. Here’s our quick reaction to the match. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.
Despite both teams missing key players, notably Iñigo and Oyarzabal for Real Sociedad, and too many to name for Real Madrid, this match was circled on the calendar with red spray paint to amplify its importance. Sociedad came into this match in blitzing form, and even though they played a Europa League match against Rosenborg on Thursday with key players (Odriozola, Illara, Willian Jose, Xabi Prieto, Diego Llorente, Canales, Zurutuza — all of whom started today), they had sealed the result by half-time against the Norwegians and were able to play through the motions in the second half and shift their focus to tonight’s match at Anoeta against a Real Madrid team wounded and desperate for points.
This match was riddled with storylines and talking points, to be sure. It was infinitely more eventful than the match against APOEL in the Champions League. For one, Theo Hernandez going up against Alvaro Odriozola was tasty as hell — two of the most promising wing-backs in the league going toe-to-toe in a back-and-forth melee. And it brought out the best in Theo, who, looked the most comfortable he’s been since signing for Real Madrid, and kept Odriozola in check at both ends of the field apart from arrive late to close down the cross which led to Real Sociedad’s equalizing goal in the first half.
Theo should, of course, not be the culprit for a goal which Keylor Navas unquestionably should’ve saved, though, and other than that, was a tremendous presence for Real Madrid on the left flank.
As I noted when the starting lineups were announced, I was glad that Zidane rolled the dice with Mayoral. It was a great message to a promising young striker treading water in the depth chart, and it allowed Gareth Bale to play in a preferred deeper role. Mayoral worked tremendously hard today. He should’ve passed to Isco quickly before he forced an own-goal, but that’s nitpicking from a young player who put his life on the pitch. On Real Madrid’s first goal, he tracked the ball like a hawk — focused and ready to pounce when Ramos was pulled down in the area. Mayoral was there to ensure the penalty shout didn’t matter at all.
Bale meanwhile, who was overall, a bit starved of some passes despite being in great areas with his off-the-ball runs, finally scored a vintage Bale goal — something both he and the team needed badly. That goal ultimately put the game to bed. Sociedad had a few waves of attack (while Real Madrid countered in space as much as they could) in the last 20 minutes, but Real Madrid were able to fend off the pressure, and Varane and Ramos were excellent as they typically have been when paired together in the last year or so.
As always, this is just the bare bones. We’ll break this match down further in the coming hours.