MADRID — Withstanding the rain and cold, Real Madrid pulled off a hard-fought victory against Alaves to put pressure on Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league on Saturday.
Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal scored second-half goals as Real Madrid beat its tough Basque Country opponent 2-1 to take the league lead from Barcelona, which visits fifth-placed Atlético Madrid on Sunday.
“We overcame the rain, the cold, the hard fouls,” veteran Real Madrid left back Marcelo said. “It’s in these types of matches that you win the league.”
The result gave Madrid a three-point advantage over Barcelona. They both have a game in hand because their clásico from October was postponed until Dec. 18 because of a separatist rally in the Catalan capital.
It was the third straight league win for Madrid, which is unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions.
“It’s a very important victory, but we are not concerned with what will happen tomorrow between Barcelona and Atlético,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.
Ramos scored with a header off a set-piece taken by Toni Kroos in the 52nd minute, then committed the foul leading to a penalty kick for Alavés, which was converted by Lucas Pérez in the 65th. Ramos was shown a yellow card for his foul, an elbow to the face of Alavés forward Joselu.
Pérez has eight goals in his last nine matches.
Carvajal netted the winner from close range five minutes later off the rebound of a header by Francisco “Isco” Alarcón. Alavés goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco made an initial save against Isco’s header before the ball went off the woodwork and ricocheted back toward Carvajal in front of the goal.
“They came pressuring after getting the equalizer, but we reacted well,” Marcelo said.
Zidane opted to start against Alavés without Thibaut Courtois, who made a mistake in the first PSG goal on Tuesday. He was replaced by Alphonse Areola, whose key second-half saves secured three points for Madrid under heavy rain at the Mendizorroza Stadium.
“(Areola) saved us, like Courtois has saved us before. He played extremely well,” Zidane said.
Madrid was also without Eden Hazard, who picked up a bruise in the match against PSG. Isco started in his place, alongside Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema up front.
Bale, who was on the bench for most of the match against PSG, put in a low-key performance.
ODEGAARD IN CHARGE
Norway midfielder Martin Odegaard had another impressive performance to steer Real Sociedad to beaing Eibar 4-1 in San Sebastian.
Sociedad climbed past Atlético and into fourth place.
The 20-year-old Odegaard, who is on loan from Real Madrid, led Sociedad’s vibrant attack with his creative passing and capped the win with a fine left-footed curling strike in the 80th.
Robin Le Normand headed Sociedad in front before Mikel Oyarzabal and Willian José added goals. Pape Diop made it 1-1 for Eibar.
Valencia beat Villarreal 2-1 in a regional derby with goals from Spain striker Rodrigo Moreno and 19-year-old Ferran Torres.
Joaquín Sánchez scored a penalty and Nabil Fekir added another goal as Real Betis won 2-1 at Mallorca.
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