La Liga: Real Sociedad scale the heights
Basque team’s thrashing of Valladolid follows recent wins over Atlético and Barcelona and leaves them in fourth place.
By Halima Ali
In 2002, Real Sociedad were runners up in La Liga, chasing Real Madrid until the penultimate week of the season when a loss 3-2 loss away to Celta Vigo effectively put an end to their title hopes. There has not been much to shout about since, with the Basque side spending several years in the second division. But as the table currently stands, Philippe Montanier’s men have found themselves in a coveted Champions League spot with their latest victory, a 4-1 drubbing of Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Though they started brightly, it wasn’t until just after the half-hour mark that La Real took the lead when Antoine Griezmann lashed a strike into the bottom corner.
Six minutes later, Imanol Agirretxe doubled their advantage when he skilfully curled the ball into the top corner of the net.
Frenchman Griezmann then took the game beyond the visitors when he plucked the ball out of the air, after a long ball over the top of the defence, and fired a sensational volley past Dani Hernández.
Just three minutes after the break, the hosts added to their tally when a superb interchange between Xabi Prieto, Griezmann and Carlos Vela saw the ball come back to Prieto, who slotted home from close range. Javi Guerra clawed a goal back for Valladolid in the latter stages.
The result means Real Sociedad have lost only once in 18 games and are in fourth spot with a two-point cushion over Valencia in fifth and three points ahead of tycoon-backed Málaga in sixth, though it should perhaps not come as a surprise. This is after all, the same team that has claimed some impressive scalps this season.
Last week, they travelled to the Vicente Calderón where Atlético Madrid had been unbeaten all season and had not conceded a goal since October. A solitary strike by Prieto ensured all three points for the visitors while the result meant the hosts conceded second-spot in the league table to fierce city rivals Real Madrid.
Sociedad themselves put three goals past José Mourinho’s men when they met at the Santiago Bernabéu in January with a hat-trick by Prieto, though a Cristiano Ronaldo brace managed to spare his team’s blushes and the match ended 4-3 in favour of the home side.
Two weeks later, Real Sociedad became the first team to inflict defeat on FC Barcelona this season when they came back from 2-0 down to end the game 3-2. Txuri-urdin have even defeated their Basque neighbours Athletic Bilbao in what was the last ever derby to be played at the San Mamés.
With 10 games left to play, there will be fierce competition for the European qualification spots, and while Montainer quipped “I’ve asked the Federation if it’s possible to end the league now but they said they can’t”, he needn’t worry, as Sociedad look set to put up quite the fight.
Elsewhere, Lionel Messi scored in his 18th consecutive league match netting a brace, as Barcelona defeated Rayo Vallecano 3-1 at the Camp Nou to maintain a 13-point lead at the top of the table.
Messi laid on the opener for David Villa to put the hosts ahead after 25 minutes and El Guaje returned the favour when he released Messi to score shortly before half-time and again after the break. Substitute and former Espanyol striker Raúl Tamudo pulled one back for Rayo in the 70th minute, as chances fell to both sides.
The Catalans were dealt a blow on Friday when it was revealed captain Carles Puyol would be out for 12 weeks following surgery on his right knee for the second time in 11 months.
In the Spanish capital, Real Madrid trailed twice before launching a comeback with three goals in seven-minutes to beat Real Mallorca 5-2.
With Mallorca leading 2-1 at the break, Cristiano Ronaldo lifted his team with an equaliser in the 51st minute – taking his league tally to 27 goals this season. Three minutes later Luka Modrić put Madrid ahead with a screamer while Gonzalo Higuaín added another and then set up Karim Benzema to complete the rout.
Real Sociedad 4 – 1 Real Valladolid
Granada CF 1 – 1 Levante UD
FC Barcelona 3 – 1 Rayo Vallecano
Osasuna 0 – 2 Atlético Madrid
Sevilla FC 4 – 0 Real Zaragoza
Málaga CF 0 – 2 RCD Espanyol
Valencia CF 3 – 0 Real Betis
Real Madrid 5 – 2 RCD Mallorca
Getafe CF 1 – 0 Athletic Bilbao
Deportivo La Coruña 3 – 1 Celta de Vigo
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