Real Madrid took control of the Spanish title race after beating Real Sociedad 2-1 at the Anoeta Stadium on Sunday to move top of La Liga above Barcelona.
Madrid’s trip to San Sebastian was full of intrigue after Barcelona failed to beat Sevilla, and the Catalan side’s defender Gerard Pique said the title was now Madrid’s for the taking.
Madrid captain Sergio Ramos broke the deadlock in the 50th minute by converting a penalty after Vinicius Jr went to ground in the area, following contact from Sociedad’s Diego Llorente.
Sociedad thought they had levelled with a strike from Adnan Januzaj from outside the box, but the goal was ruled out after a VAR review showed Mikel Merino obstructing the view of Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois without touching the ball.
Their sense of injustice deepened a minute later when Karim Benzema doubled Madrid’s lead in the 71st after controlling the ball with the top of his arm.
However, Mikel Merino ensured an exciting finish by lashing in off the crossbar in the 83rd minute to make the result 1-2.
However, Zinedine Zidane’s side hung on for the win to move level with Barca on 65 points after 30 games, but climbed above the Catalans due to a superior head-to-head record.
Merino appeared to suggest that decisions had gone Madrid’s way in their 3-0 win over Valencia last Thursday.
Last thursday, Zidane’s team had benefitted from a Valencia goal that was chalked off for an offside against a player who had not touched the ball, and there was a tangible sense of deja-vu when Januzaj’s equaliser was ruled out due to Merino’s position.
“We’re angry with everything but mainly with the way we lost, because the little details and the big moments went against us,” said Merino.
“I was at least five metres from Courtois when I was flagged offside. I don’t know if the same thing would have happened had it been in the other area but the flag went up and we feel that we have been wronged.”
Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde, however, felt the three points were deserved.
“In my opinion we were the superior team against a very tough opponent, we knew how to cope with them and how to hold on to our lead,” said Valverde.
“We’re so happy because it was such a hard game and when you win a game like that you should enjoy it.”
Other La Liga results
Celta Vigo 6-0 Deportivo Alaves
Valencia 2-0 Osasuna