Real Sociedad 0-2 Real Madrid (Vinícius Júnior & Jović). Here is the immediate reaction to the triumph... On the way: press conference highlights, player ratings and the post game podcast.
Real Sociedad had built themselves up as everybody’s La Liga sweethearts over the past few seasons, and this year the Spanish Cup champions were continuing to climb high in the top half of the table. This would make it yet another tricky game for Real Madrid to overcome in their bid to lift the trophy at the end of the campaign. With a fourth gruelling match-up on the way against Atlético Madrid in mind, you’d think a manager like Carlo Ancelotti would opt to rotate even slightly to keep some players fresh for both games - but the line-up remained strong. Names like Eden Hazard and Isco are regulars on the bench list on the bench list these days, whilst Fede Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga could consider themselves unlucky not to start. Karim Benzema captained the side.
Timid was the right word to describe the opening half an hour, although some might use the term even. It seemed like both teams were holding back as Sociedad looked to play out from the back as much as possible, and Madrid looked to create chances through both Benzema and Vinícius Júnior. After some tame efforts from both attackers, the game started to open up more. It seemed to be slightly tipping in Sociedad’s favour however, as they posed a bigger threat on Thibaut Courtois’ goal - without actually asking anything of the big goalkeeper. The highlights of the half were injury concerns, regrettably to say. Initially, Ferland Mendy pulled up after going on a run down the left-hand side, only to resume playing moments later after some panic on the bench. Then, disaster struck as Karim Benzema stopped play by himself and signalled to the manager that he could no longer continue. He did jog off easily enough as he was replaced by Luka Jović, so hopefully he just felt a slight pull in his left leg and removed himself as a precaution. Half time approached with the scoreboard remaining goalless.
In the absence of Benzema, fans were looking towards Vinícius Júnior to make up the difference and step up for a big second half, and it could not have started better for him. He linked up with Jović well within two minutes before side-footing the ball low into the corner to continue his superb run of form this season. Madrid started to gain a hold over the game, and ten minutes later doubled their lead, this time from Jović finally hitting the target again for Los Blancos - as he headed past Álex Remiro from close range to add to what was already his best performance for the club. Casemiro was taken off before he could receive a yellow card and a suspension for the Madrid-derby, and was replaced by Camavinga. The pace of the game scuppered after this, as we have often seen this season when Madrid need a big three points. This led to the visitors being able to comfortably see out the game and secure yet another big win against a strong side. That makes it three (Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad) not necessarily pretty victories, but victories against sides that have often outdone Real Madrid in the past. This becomes even greater when you take into account that both Barcelona and Atlético Madrid suffered defeats today, the latter to a last minute Takefusa Kubo goal. This really will be a significant point to reflect on at the end of the season. What are your thoughts, Madrid fans?