Real Madrid 3-1 Real Sociedad: Cristiano Ronaldo scores twice to ease pressure on Rafael Benitez
By Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 30/12/15 9:35pm
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and missed a penalty to ease the pressure on beleaguered boss Rafael Benitez as Real Madrid recorded a much-needed 3-1 win against Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The first half was a case of two penalties as Portuguese star Ronaldo skied his first opportunity, but redeemed himself when handed a second chance just before the break which he made no mistake with.
Bruma equalised four minutes into the second half with a tremendous right-footed curler before Ronaldo put the hosts back into the lead after 67 minutes when he volleyed home from a corner.
Substitute Lucas Vasquez put the icing on the cake for Los Blancos with a superb third on the counter-attack to send them top of the table - for a few hours at least - before Barcelona's home game against Real Betis.
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.
Despite the pre-match whistles when Benitez's face was shown on the big screen, he was brave enough to pick 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.
Sociedad's biggest hope of putting Benitez under more pressure was their in-form striker Imanol Agirretxe, who had scored eight goals in his last 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 Sociedad 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.
Portuguese forward Bruma, on loan from Turkish club Galatasaray, 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 instantly control and turn Bale's pin-point cross under Rulli.