At Reale Arena in San Sebastian, the contest was tight. It is not always important to go on for an offensive surge, but at times, being behind the ball and maintaining a compact defence is very important in winning a match when the opposition is stubborn. Real Sociedad have players who can pose a big threat. Ask Barcelona how they tested them a few months back and Zinedine Zidane knows very well how important the contest would be and thus focused on solidity rather than free-flowing football.

Real Sociedad are a team, which can kill you during the transition and they are very well in absorbing pressure. If you advance forward, from nowhere, they would win the ball back and exploit the gaps. Zidane could not but emphasize on being defensive – Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio were benched. The battle must be won at the center of the park.

Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Fede Valverde, and James  Rodriguez parked the midfield whereas Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema occupied upfront. The midfield kept their compactness intact with Rodriguez forming the top of a diamond-shaped midfield.

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The preference of Vinicius was a tactical move. You need someone to break the resistance with pace and dribbling abilities and none could do this better than Vinicius Junior.

In the first half, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad were tested constantly, and both did well enough to advance the ball.

The only real chance in the first half from either side came from Fede Valverde winning the ball high up the pitch with a great bit of defensive intervention. After carrying the ball up the field, he released Benzema through in the box for a shot on goal.

Without Hazard; Benzema relied on help from Vinicius and James offensively. But Vinicius was more effective – Vinicius, who dominated Gorosabel in a matchup earlier in November, went at the Real Sociedad right-back often. Gorosabel did well defensively but did get burned a couple of times, and it was Vinicius’s line-breaking run that led to a penalty earned in the second half.

As a matter of fact, Vinicius had a terrific game defensively as well.

Real Sociedad couldn’t get going offensively was because any time they had space to exploit, Vinicius would sprint back to help Marcelo or the midfield who got caught. Portu had no chance at any offensive freedom on that flank because of it.

To be honest, Rodriguez was below-par and excuses would be there, but one needs to agree, he does not fit well in the current Real Madrid team.

Controversy showed up in the second half –  Real Sociedad looked like they had equalized through a Januzaj goal, but it was called off due to Mikel Merino — who didn’t touch the ball — being in an offside position interfering with Courtois’s line of vision. Moments later, Karim Benzema scored a goal, which he brought down with his shoulder before firing it in the back of the net. The goal stood, in what was essentially a two-goal swing. Both decisions required some interpretation.

Sociedad pulled one back, but Real sustained the pressure and overcame the threat.

It was a relief and this victory have put Real at the top of the table.