Ronaldo scores as Real Madrid extend La Liga lead to four points

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Real Sociedad on Sunday. Getty Images

Real Madrid capitalised on slip-ups by their two main title rivals to open up a four-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Matea Kovacic’s first-ever La Liga goal put Zinedine Zidane’s men on their way to a 3-0 win over Real Sociedad that enabled them to bounce back from a humbling Copa del Rey exit at the hands of Celta Vigo.

Cristiano Ronaldo was also on target at the Bernabeu, for the 20th time for his club so far this season, and Alvaro Morata added the third as Real completed the double over Sociedad and frustrated their bid to move into the top four.

With second-placed Barcelona held to a 1-1 draw at Real Betis and Sevilla going down 3-1 to Espanyol, Real are now firmly on course for a first league title since 2012 and a 33rd overall.

Zidane’s men, who have suffered just one La Liga defeat so far this season, to Sevilla on Jan. 15, have also progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League.

Sociedad, who went into the game having posted back-to-back league wins, finished the game with 10 men after Inigo Martinez was sent off on 74 minutes after being shown a second yellow card.

Sociedad coach Eusebio wanted a response to his side’s disappointing midweek cup loss and they made the brighter start to the match.

The sixth-minute booking of Martinez for a clumsy aerial challenge on Ronaldo was a sign of their urgency and Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas had to be alert to keep out a free-kick from Willian Jose.

The breakthrough came against the run of play on 38 minutes when Ronaldo spotted an opening and his through-ball enabled Kovacic to fire past the onrushing Geronimo Rulli.

Kovacic repaid the favour six minutes into the second half when he played Ronaldo into space and the Portuguese star calmly dinked the ball over Rulli’s head.

Sociedad threatened when Sergio Ramos bundled over Juanmi in his own box but the referee waved away their penalty appeals and Ronaldo then had a second goal disallowed for offside.

There was no way back for the visitors when Martinez was sent off on 74 minutes after being shown a second yellow card for a foul on Casemiro and Real added a third on 83 minutes when Navas sparked a counter-attack which saw Lucas Vazquez place a delicious cross into the path of substitute Morata, who nodded it home.