Sociedad wins at Rayo 2-0 to close on top 2 in Spain

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Led by an ageless David Silva and a striker making the most of a second chance, Real Sociedad is threatening to make it a three-way title fight in the Spanish league.

Sociedad’s 2-0 win at Rayo Vallecano in the capital on Saturday pulled it level with second-placed Real Madrid a week before they face one another. Leader Barcelona is just three points clear.

Both powerhouses have two more games to play, but the San Sebastián team, which hasn’t won the league since the 1980s, is coming on strong with nine straight wins across the league and the Copa del Rey.

Imanol Alguacil’s Sociedad faces a big week ahead. It visits Camp Nou on Wednesday to play Barcelona in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals then visits the Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday to face Madrid in the league.

Alguacil, however, urged his players not to look at the standings.

“That will only make us let up,” he said, considering this is round 18 of 38. “There is a long way to go. Let’s see where we are when there are only five or six rounds left.”

Silva helped to put Sociedad ahead in the 15th minute when the 37-year-old midfielder recovered the ball and slipped a pass to meet the run of Alexander Sorloth. The Norway striker used one touch of the tip of his boot to stab the ball under goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.

Sociedad doubled the lead in the 36th on a set-piece. Aritz Elustondo curled around a scrum of players to shake his marker and redirected a corner kick to the far post where Ander Barrenetxea finished it off.

While Silva is still showing the playmaking skills from his best years at Manchester City and for Spain, Sorloth is enjoying a superb season of his own. Following a ho-hum 2021-22 campaign on loan at Sociedad, Sorloth was brought back again on loan from Leipzig after Sociedad sold Alexander Isak to Newcastle. But Sorloth was still set to be the second option until top signing Umar Sadiq sustained a serious knee injury in September.

Sorloth has responded by scoring eight times in 14 league games, including an ongoing five-round scoring streak, compared to just three goals in 32 league games last season.

Sociedad won its third Copa del Rey in 2020. Its two Spanish league titles came in 1981 and 1982.

PRETTY IN PINK

Even with his hair dyed bright pink, Antoine Griezmann still proved impossible for defenders to track as he scored once and played a part in two more goals in the opening half hour of Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 victory over Valladolid.

Griezmann deftly provided an assist with a flick of the back of his heel to play Álvaro Morata clear for the 18th-minute opener at Metropolitano Stadium. The France forward scored from close to make it 2-0 in the 24th and his free kick finally went in on a rebound by Mario Hermoso in the 28th.

Memphis Depay debuted for Atletico in the 75th a day after the Netherlands forward transferred from Barcelona to help fill the void left by João Félix’s move to Chelsea.

Atlético, which stayed fourth, next plays Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals on Thursday.

BETIS LOSES

Espanyol beat Real Betis 1-0 thanks to Martin Braithwaite’s goal just before halftime. The visitors stumbled in the chase for a top-four finish. Betis suffered a third consecutive defeat.

SEVILLA WINS

Ivan Rakitic converted an 89th-minute penalty to snatch Sevilla a 1-0 victory over Cádiz and lift it out of the relegation zone. Ivan Alejo gave away the penalty when he used his hand to deflect a cross in the box. That infraction earned him a second booking and a sending off.

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