Cristiano Ronaldo brace sees Real Madrid past Real Sociedad

Pressure eases on Rafael Benitez as Vazquez turns in Gareth Bale cross to seal win

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 3-1 at the Bernabeu. Photograph: Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 3-1 at the Bernabeu. Photograph: Reuters

 

Cristiano Ronaldo helped ease the pressure on boss Rafa Benitez as his two goals inspired Real Madrid to a 3-1 win over Real Sociedad.

The Portuguese missed a penalty and then scored from the spot to give Madrid a deserved first-half lead which was quickly cancelled out at the start of the second period by Bruma.

But Ronaldo volleyed home from a corner to restore Madrid’s lead and then substitute Lucas Vazquez sealed the points with a close-range finish.

Madrid went into the game having scored 22 goals in their last three games, thrashing Getafe 4-1, Malmo 8-0 and Rayo Vallecano 10-2.

Yet the build-up to the game told of a far from stable atmosphere at the club.

Reports that Benitez’s job was at immediate risk gathered pace over the Christmas period, and in his pre-game conference he denounced the stories, talking of a “campaign” against him, the club and president Florentino Perez.

Benitez picked an attacking line-up, the same midfield three and attacking trio that started in the 4-0 defeat to Barcelona a month earlier, but with Nacho and Pepe replacing Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos in central defence.

La Real’s biggest hope of putting Benitez under more pressure was their in-form striker Imanol Agirretxe, who had scored eight goals in his nine games and went into the game level with Ronaldo on 12 league goals. But the 28-year-old would not last long in the game, forced off injured in the first half after clashing with Keylor Navas.

Earlier in the game, Brazilian forward Jonathas de Jesus had a strong penalty appeal turned down after Pepe trod on his foot in the area, and the visitors’ rotten luck continued as they had to make another change late in the half when Sergio Canales was stretchered off with a suspected knee injury.

Madrid had made a bright start, Pepe, Benzema, and Ronaldo all forcing saves from Geronimo Rulli in quick succession.

They were handed their clearest chance yet midway through the first half when Benzema went down after the slightest of challenges by defender Yuri, but Ronaldo could not even hit the target from 12 yards, blasting over and missing from the spot for the first time this season.

But he was afforded another chance to score three minutes before the break after Gareth Bale’s cross bounced off the leg of Yuri and then struck the defender’s arm, with referee Jose Luis Gonzalez Gonzalez harshly pointing to the spot.

Ronaldo made no mistake at the second time of asking, smashing the ball into the bottom corner and beyond Rulli, scoring his sixth penalty of the season.

But La Real were back level four minutes after the interval, Bruma smashing the ball into the top corner from the left wing after Jonathas had outmuscled Pepe on the other side before squaring to his team-mate.

Bruma almost gave the visitors the lead moments later as he raced through a gap in the defence to try and pounce on a loose ball, but Navas got there first.

And then at the other end Rulli made the finest save of the game, diving to his right to palm away a shot from Bale.

Ronaldo eventually eased rising tensions in the Bernabeu by striking again on 67 minutes, swivelling to meet Marcelo’s corner on the volley and sending it bouncing past Rulli, rounding off a prolific 2015 with 57 goals in 57 games.

And 20 minutes later Vazquez rounded off the victory for Madrid, arriving in the box to turn Bale’s low cross under Rulli.

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