Real Madrid returned to the top of La Liga via head-to-head record on Sunday with a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad to go ahead of Barcelona.
Zinedine Zidane handed James Rodriguez a rare start, with Real Madrid knowing a victory would put them ahead of their Catalan rivals, who drew 0-0 with Sevilla on Friday.
However, the visitors were frustrated in the opening half as sixth-placed Real Sociedad showed plenty of fight against the Madrid giants in a goalless first half.
Vinicius Junior, who was handed a start by Zidane on the night, drew a foul in the penalty area early in the second half and Sergio Ramos stepped up to convert the spot-kick to give Real the lead and become the highest-scoring defender in La Liga history with 68 goals.
However, Ramos would leave the game with an injury shortly after following a hard collision with Sociedad’s Alexander Isak, with teammate Eder Militao coming on in the 60th minute for the Madrid captain.
Karim Benzema doubled Real Madrid’s lead in the 70th minute after settling a cross over the Sociedad defense, turning and firing home a goal that stood up following a VAR check for handball.
The hosts clawed one back just after the 80-minute mark when Mikel Merino found himself alone at the far post and buried his close-range attempt into the roof of the net to halve the deficit.
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 Adnan Januzaj’s equalizer was ruled out due to Merino’s position.
Sociedad fought hard to find an equalizer, but none came as Real held on to their 2-1 lead to take all three points.
Real Madrid has beaten Barcelona and drew their other match against them, so despite an inferior goal difference Zidane’s team takes top spot in the table thanks to a better head-to-head record.