La Liga 2023-24: Real edges closer to title with gritty win at Sociedad

Arda Guler scored to earn a second-string Real Madrid side a 1-0 win at Real Sociedad on Friday, moving the La Liga leader a step closer to a record-extending 36th Spanish title.

With five games remaining, Real climbed to 84 points and extended its lead to 14 points over second-placed Barcelona, which has a game in hand and hosts Valencia on Monday.

Real manager Carlo Ancelotti made nine changes to the team who beat Barca 3-2 on Sunday, resting key players like Jude Bellingham and Toni Kroos ahead of its Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich and his side did just enough to secure the three points.

“It was clear that everyone thought we were coming here for a walk,” Ancelotti told reporters. “The only ones who didn’t think so were the players. They had commitment and attitude. They had the desire and enthusiasm to keep winning.”

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Six-placed Real Sociedad, fighting for a Europa League spot, dominated possession under pouring rain in northern Spain and had a few good chances saved by Real keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The visitor made the most of the only chance it had in the first half, when 19-year-old Turkish midfielder Guler, making his first start for Real after signing from Fenerbahce, turned home Dani Carvajal’s cross in the 29th minute.

Three minutes later Takefusa Kubo thought he had scored the equaliser with a tidy finish from close range, but the referee ruled the goal out after spotting a foul in the build-up following a VAR check.

The host pushed for an equaliser after the break but had another goal ruled out, a strike from Mikel Merino who was offside, and a shot from the edge of the box by Benat Turrientes was saved by the inspired Arrizabalaga.

Real Madrid almost ended up extending its lead later on, with Alex Remiro making a brilliant reflex save to deny Eduardo Camavinga’s strike from close range.

“We have a spectacular squad. They have this attitude that they feel like they have to win every game. There are four points left to clinch the La Liga title and we are very close,” Ancelotti said.

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