Football: Benitez praises Ronaldo's inspirational display and leadership

Cristiano Ronaldo (right) celebrates his second goal against Real Sociedad.
Cristiano Ronaldo (right) celebrates his second goal against Real Sociedad.PHOTO: EPA

MADRID • Real Madrid head coach Rafael Benitez hailed the leadership shown by Cristiano Ronaldo as he scored twice despite missing a penalty as Madrid beat Real Sociedad 3-1 on Wednesday.

Ronaldo failed to even hit the target from the spot for the first time this season as he blasted over early on.

But he made amends when the hosts were controversially awarded a second spot-kick to open the scoring.

The Portuguese then struck his 25th goal of the season when Sociedad had Madrid on the ropes following Bruma's stunning equaliser.

"I have congratulated him and the whole team because they were united in a situation that demanded they show character and personality," said Benitez. "That is why I am praising Cristiano again because, despite missing the penalty, he assumed the responsibility again and put the team on his back to get the go-ahead goal."

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Despite missing the penalty, he assumed the responsibility again and put the team on his back to get the go-ahead goal.

RAFAEL BENITEZ, Real Madrid head coach, on the leadership shown by Cristiano Ronaldo in their win against Real Sociedad

There was little sign of reconciliation between the home fans and under-fire Benitez as he was whistled before kick-off.

But Madrid started brightly and were only denied a flying start by a hat-trick of brilliant saves from Geronimo Rulli.

The Argentinian goalkeeper tipped over Pepe's looping header before showing great reflexes to deny Ronaldo and Karim Benzema from close range.

Sociedad's luck seemed completely out in the first half, though, as they lost top-scorer Imanol Agirretxe and playmaker Sergio Canales to injury and saw referee Jose Luis Gonzalez award Madrid two controversial penalties.

The first spot-kick was given for an apparent push by Yuri Berchiiche on Benzema at the back post.

Yuri was then penalised for blocking Gareth Bale's cross with an outstretched hand.

According to the referee's report, Real Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay made his way to the referee's dressing room at half-time and said: "This is shameful. You have come here to rob us. I will be filing a complaint to the police."

When play resumed, however, it was Benitez who was once again the subject of disdain.

His popularity with the Real faithful was not helped by his decision to replace James Rodriguez with Mateo Kovacic on the hour mark and later Benzema for Vazquez.

Yet, it was Vazquez that ensured all three points when he coolly controlled and finished Bale's fine cross to make it 3-1 three minutes from time.

Benitez responded to press reports on Tuesday that he remains one bad result away from the sack by claiming there is a media campaign against him.

"I concentrate on the next game. Until now that was Real (Sociedad) and the next will be Valencia," he added. "I try to be prepared and do as well as I can."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2016, with the headline 'Benitez praises Ronaldo's inspirational display and leadership'. Print Edition | Subscribe