Real Madrid delivered an emphatic performance without Cristiano Ronaldo to defeat Real Sociedad 4-1 in La Liga on Saturday.
As expected, Los Blancos switched to a 4-4-2 formation in the forward’s absence, with Gareth Bale moving up top alongside Karim Benzema. In midfield, Isco and James Rodriguez occupied the wide berths, while there was a place in the XI for Asier Illarramendi, who was facing his former club. However, neither Lucas Silva nor Martin Odegaard were named in the matchday squad.
La Real produced shock results against Madrid and Barcelona earlier in the season, and they looked to have sprung another when Aritz Elustondo headed home a corner inside the first minute.
However, their advantage was short-lived as James met Marcelo’s cross in the box and guided his header into the top-left corner of Geronimo Rulli’s net just two minutes later.
The Basques then suffered a huge blow when Carlos Vela was hauled off with a suspected knee problem. Insult to injury was added once Sergio Ramos blasted in the rebound from Benzema’s parried shot.
The explosive start to the match quickly died down, but Bale temporarily faced more negative headlines after another case of taking a difficult chance on when picking out a teammate was the better option.
However, he more than made amends for his miss with a professional display after the restart. Rampaging down the left-hand side, akin to his Tottenham days, he picked out Benzema in the box for Madrid’s third goal.
The points were then sealed midway through the second half thanks to a moment of brilliance from the Frenchman, who received a lay-off from Isco on the edge of the box and unleashed a sensational drive which curled into the top-right corner.
Bale then had a glorious opportunity to upgrade Madrid’s win to a rout towards the end of the encounter when he was played clean through but could only strike his finish at Rulli’s chest.
Real Madrid 4-1 Real Sociedad
James 3, Ramos 37, Benzema 52, 76 (M) A Elustondo 1 (R)
Real Madrid: Casillas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; James (Jese 74), Illarramendi, Kroos (Khedira 81), Isco; Benzema (Chicharito 81), Bale
Real Sociedad: Rulli; Yuri, Inigo, Mikel, A Elustondo (Bergara 63); G Elustondo, Granero; Prieto, Pardo, Canales (De la Bella 45); Vela (Agirretxe 17)
Referee: Alvarez Izquierdo