Saturday 24 March 2018

Ronaldo and Real overcome hostile reception to stretch their La Liga lead

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo

Jamie Holland

Real Madrid overcame 10-man Real Sociedad at a hostile Santiago Bernabeu last night to stretch their lead at the top of La Liga to four points with a game in hand.

Cristiano Ronaldo shrugged off jeers from the home crowd to set up Mateo Kovacic on 38 minutes for his first goal of the season.

Kovacic turned provider in the 51st minute as Ronaldo expertly finished, before the visitors' task was made all the more difficult when Inigo Martinez was shown a red card for a second bookable offence.

Alvaro Morata came off the bench and found the net on 82 minutes to complete what was a comfortable win for Zinedine Zidane's side.

Earlier in the day Luis Suarez prevented Barcelona's first La Liga defeat since October 2 by equalising in the final minute of a 1-1 draw at Real Betis, in a match shrouded in controversy.

Suarez pounced on an error by Betis substitute Nahuel Leiva to slot home his 16th league goal of the season after Alex Alegria had given Betis a 75th-minute lead.

However, the main fallout from this hectic skirmish at the Estadio Benito Villamarin will surround the goal that never was.

Barcelona were left cursing the absence of goal-line technology in Spain after Matteo Piccinini appeared to put through his own net two minutes after Alegria's opener.

Aissa Mandi cleared from under - and on to - his own crossbar, but replays clearly showed the ball had crossed the Betis goal-line.

Sevilla's title challenge suffered a setback when they were beaten 3-1 at Espanyol. Former Man City attacker Stevan Jovetic cancelled out Jose Antonio Reyes' 4th-minute penalty, but Marc Navarro Ceciliano put the hosts back in front in first-half stoppage time before Gerard rounded off the victory.

In Italy, Gonzalo Higuain reached 15 goals for the Serie A season as Juventus reinforced their position as league leaders with a 2-0 victory at Sassuolo.

The striker continued his recent hot streak with a ninth-minute opener, before Germany's Sami Khedira made a rare appearance on the scoresheet on 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Hoffenheim suffered their first Bundesliga defeat of the season as they went down 2-1 at RB Leipzig.

Hoffenheim went into the game as the only unbeaten team in Europe's big five divisions, but their 10 men were beaten by second-placed Leipzig to end their streak at 17 games.

Leipzig remain three points behind leaders Bayern Munich, who battled to a 2-1 win at Werder Bremen.

Bayern set a Bundesliga record with their 13th successive victory thanks to goals from Arjen Robben and David Alaba.

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