Football

Under-fire Benitez hails two-goal Ronaldo

REAL MADRID 3

(Cristiano Ronaldo 42-pen, 67, Lucas 86

REAL SOCIEDAD 1

(Bruma 49)

Rafa Benitez praised Cristiano Ronaldo for carrying Real Madrid "on his back" as the forward scored twice in a scrappy but vital 3-1 win over Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Portugal international Ronaldo opened the scoring from the spot shortly before half-time having skied a penalty earlier in the half.

And after Bruma had levelled for Real Sociedad just after the break, Ronaldo put the hosts back in front with an impressive swivelled volley, while substitute Lucas Vazquez sealed the points late on.

"I have congratulated Cristiano and everyone else because they all united today," Real coach Benitez said.

"He took responsibility after missing the penalty and carried the team on his back."

The win eased the pressure on Benitez, following an uncertain Christmas period rife with reports that his days at Real were numbered.

But the Spaniard rejected suggestions he could have lost his job had Real not beaten the Basques.

"I don't feel that's the case, I'm now focusing on the next game," he said.

"We had chances but we didn't take them and then the team reacted (to Real Sociedad's equaliser) phenomenally. I can only congratulate the players as this means we can look forward."

And he insisted he was unmoved when home fans booed his name when it was read out before kick-off and again when he brought off James Rodriguez for Mateo Kovacic.

"It's my responsibility to get the best out of the players we have on the bench, they all did a good job and their fresh legs helped us," he said.

"We're happy when we win and that's all we want, to win games and win trophies. "

Real forward Vazquez played down the significance of the booing against Benitez, telling television network Canal Plus: "The crowd have the right to applaud and to boo us. We just need to keep doing what we're doing and keep winning games."

And Emilio Butragueno, the club's director of institutional relations, reaffirmed the club's belief in Benitez, insisting their faith in the Spaniard was "absolute".

But Real Sociedad coach Eusebio Sacristan was left lamenting the decisions of referee Jose Luis Gonzalez, who turned down a penalty appeal by Jonathas de Jesus before awarding two penalties for the hosts.

"The game threw up circumstances which did not go in our favour," said Sacristan. "I don't know if that's down to coincidence or bad luck, but it has happened before with this referee and it's a real shame."

- PA Sport.

la ligaREAL MADRIDcristiano ronaldoRafa Benitez