Yesterday’s win at Anoeta, where Vinícius Júnior did for Real Sociedad with his constant running, leaves Real Madrid in a very good position at the top of LaLiga. Very good indeed, because they’re now eight points clear of Sevilla, nine ahead of Real Betis and Atlético Madrid, and 10 from La Real. What’s more, Barcelona are way back, 16 points adrift. Head coach Carlo Ancelotti is pushing his first-choice picks to the limit, fielding the same team week in, week out - save for right-back and right wing - but it has enabled Madrid to build up a points cushion. In exchange, they paid the price of a muscle injury to Karim Benzema last night. Other than Thibaut Courtois, who doesn’t have to run, he had played the most minutes.
Anoeta loses plot with referee over Casemiro decisions
Even without Aritz Elustondo, Mikel Merino and David Silva, La Real were sure to be an exacting assignment for Madrid. And aside from Vinícius’ area of the pitch, where he always had the upper hand, it was a finely-balanced first half, as the hosts gave as good as they got, spurred on by a home crowd that was already annoyed at previous refereeing calls - and went spare last night. Jesús Gil Manzano passed up an opportunity to award a penalty for a Casemiro handball, a strange one that you do see given under the current rules, and there were also points where he might have booked him. Casemiro is on tiresome form at the moment; he doesn’t feel right and sometimes allows his nerves to fray. It seemed at times like he was trying to get his fifth yellow, rather than avoiding it ahead of the Madrid derby.
Real Madrid ease to victory in second half
In the second half, after quickfire goals by Vinícius and Luka Jovic - the Serb setting up the Brazilian for the first - La Real fell away completely, possibly because they allowed themselves to be infected by the fans’ indignation at the referee. So Madrid saw out the game comfortably, having begun it with the good news that Barça and Atlético had both lost at home. Benzema isn’t expected to be out for long, but it is a significant absence. That said, it coincides with Jovic’s first good game for Madrid. He’s a player who tends to give the impression that he’s there in body but not in spirit, but on this occasion he looked like he could actually be useful to Los Blancos. Above all, though, Madrid will look to Vinícius, a speedster who is leading his team’s charge towards the Spanish title.