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Real Madrid move top of La Liga with win over Sociedad

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he was disappointed that he was only asked about the referee’s decisions after his side earned a 2-1 victory at Real Sociedad on Sunday to climb above Barcelona and top La Liga.
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Published: June 22, 2020 9:45:18 am

Soccer Football – La Liga Santander – Real Sociedad v Real Madrid – Reale Arena, San Sebastian, Spain – June 21, 2020 Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Vincent West

Real Madrid took control of the Spanish title race by beating Real Sociedad 2-1 away on Sunday to move top of La Liga above Barcelona after a second-half high on controversy.

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 although Merino ensured an exciting finish by lashing in off the crossbar in the 83rd minute.

However, Zinedine Zidane’s side clung on for the win to move level with Barca on 65 points after 30 games but climbed above the Catalans, who were held 0-0 at Sevilla on Friday, due to a superior head-to-head record. Sociedad are sixth on 47.

Madrid’s trip to San Sebastian was full of intrigue after Barca failed to beat Sevilla and the Catalan side’s defender Gerard Pique said the title was now Madrid’s for the taking.

He appeared to suggest decisions had gone Madrid’s way in their 3-0 win over Valencia 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 the Uruguayan.

“We’re so happy because it was such a hard game and when you win a game like that you should enjoy it.”

Zidane annoyed by talk of referees favouring Madrid

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he was disappointed that he was only asked about the referee’s decisions after his side earned a 2-1 victory at Real Sociedad on Sunday to climb above Barcelona and top La Liga.

The day before the game, Zidane had been forced to defend his team against a suggestion from Barca defender Gerard Pique that decisions were going Madrid’s way after their 3-0 win over Valencia, in which Rodrigo Moreno had an opening goal ruled out.

The French coach faced fresh questions about Madrid’s apparent fortune after three huge decisions went their way against Sociedad.

“It annoys me that at the end of the day people are only talking about the referees as if we did nothing out on the pitch,” Zidane told a virtual news conference.

“But we cannot control what people will say. We win matches on the pitch and that’s what we did today. It was a deserved victory.”

Sergio Ramos scored the opening goal just after the break with a penalty after a contentious foul on Vinicius Jr while Sociedad had an Adnan Januzaj strike ruled out for a positional offside against Mikel Merino.

Karim Benzema then doubled Madrid’s advantage in the 70th minute after controlling a cross with the top of his arm, the goal being awarded following a VAR review.

“I didn’t see the plays but I’ve been told the penalty decision was correct and that Benzema’s goals were legal,” added Zidane. “I don’t get involved in controversies because that’s the referee’s job. I just want to think about our deserved victory.

“I would prefer to talk about football and the match, I can’t say anything else about the other things.”

Having won all three matches since the season re-started after the hiatus caused by the new coronavirus, Real now lead the title race due to a superior head-to-head record over Barcelona but Zidane said there was still a long way to go.

Valencia earn first win since return

Valencia beat visiting Osasuna 2-0 in convincing fashion on Sunday with goals from Goncalo Guedes and Rodrigo to pick up their first victory in three matches since La Liga returned from its three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Valencia forward Rodrigo Moreno looked to have scored early but the goal was ruled out for offside following a VAR review which took over two minutes, having also had a goal snatched away by the technology in Thursday’s 3-0 defeat at Real Madrid.

Guedes put the home side in front instead in the 12th minute against mid-table Osasuna and then the Portugal international provided an assist for Rodrigo to double the lead in the 35th.

Valencia remain eighth but the win breathed life into their hopes of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification, taking them to 46 points, six behind fourth-placed Sevilla.

Earlier, Celta Vigo thrashed Alaves 6-0 to pull clear of the relegation zone, making the most of the visiting side having Martin Aguirregabiria sent off in the first half.

Jeison Murillo headed Celta in front after 14 minutes from a corner before their leading scorer Iago Aspas converted a penalty, making amends for spurning a spot kick in the 0-0 draw at Real Valladolid in midweek.

Celta twisted the knife further after Aguirregabiria’s dismissal, as Rafinha scored twice in two minutes before the break to make it 4-0 before halftime.

Nolito enjoyed an ideal return in his first match back for Celta after signing from Sevilla in midweek with a penalty then laid on a pass for Santi Mina to complete the rout in the 86th.

Celta were hovering one point above the relegation zone before kick off but the win took them up to 16th on 30 points, four ahead of 18th-placed Real Mallorca with eight games left. Alaves are 13th on 35.

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