MADRID, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Real Madrid put their title defence back on track with a comfortable 3-1 win over Real Sociedad at Anoeta on Sunday, despite missing several key players.
Sociedad defender Kevin Rodrigues scored at both ends and Borja Mayoral and Gareth Bale netted Madrid’s other goals to help them equal the consecutive scoring record of 73 games set by Pele’s Santos between 1961 and 1963.
Madrid had Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo suspended and Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos injured but after disappointing consecutive league draws they ended Sociedad’s unbeaten start to the season and moved up to fourth place, cutting table-topping Barcelona’s lead on them to four points.
Real Sociedad are third, on nine points, one ahead of Madrid and one behind Sevilla, who beat Girona 1-0 away to move second.
With Madrid weakened, the 20-year-old Mayoral rewarded Zinedine Zidane’s faith in him by breaking the deadlock in the 19th minute.
The striker netted his first goal for the club with a poacher’s finish after Sergio Ramos tried and failed to tee himself up for an overhead kick, having scored a similar goal against Apoel Nicosia on Wednesday.
“I‘m very happy for Borja Mayoral and Bale, they needed that,” Real right-back Dani Carvajal told Movistar. “We have a big squad and Mayoral is capable of playing and performing at the highest level, as he showed in this game.”
Mayoral’s strike extended Madrid’s scoring streak, which began in April 2016 at Anoeta with a 1-0 win over Sociedad.
“You have to congratulate the players,” said Zidane, who took over at Madrid in January 2016. “It’s the players who are the protagonists. They’re the ones that run, they’re the ones that fight. It’s 73 games but today the most important thing was to win.”
Madrid’s joy was short-lived as 10 minutes later Sociedad levelled when Alvaro Odriozola crossed for Rodrigues, whose shot squirmed past Keylor Navas, who should have kept it out.
Seven minutes later Rodrigues scored again, this time diverting Mayoral’s cross into his own net after a lightning break from Madrid, moments after he had struck Navas’s crossbar in a near carbon copy of his first goal.
Zidane asked for more from Bale ahead of the game after fans criticised his form and the Welshman delivered in the 61st minute, breaking through on to Isco’s pass and crisply dinking the ball over the onrushing Rulli.
“It was a great goal but the most important thing was to get the goal for the team, to get the win and close the gap at the top,” Bale told Movistar. “I have to keep my head down and keep working hard, that’s all I can do.”
Las Palmas beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 with former Chelsea striker Loic Remy scoring his first goal for the club, while Villarreal thrashed bottom of the table Alaves 3-0 at Mendizorroza, leading to the Basque side sacking coach Luis Zubeldia. (Editing by Clare Fallon)