The 4-2 defeat of Real Madrid by Real Sociedad on Sunday will be the result that captures the headlines within the Spanish football media especially as Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale had fired the La Liga title favourites into a two goal lead inside 12 minutes. Although Cristiano Ronaldo was absent with injury, both Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez featured in a Madrid team packed with several players bought for expensive fees and widely tipped to claim a few trophies this season. What the media may ignore is the contrasting fortunes of Real Sociedad during the early stages of the current campaign.
Real Sociedad qualified for the Champions League after finishing fourth in La Liga in the 2012-13 season, but finished at the foot of their group during that competition. A seventh placing in the league during the previous campaign entitled the team to a Europa League berth but they were further handicapped by the sale of star striker Antoine Griezmann to Atletico Madrid and his replacement Alfred Finnbogason suffering a broken collarbone in August.
Before the Spanish league season began, Sociedad were forced to play in the Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League in which they comfortably disposed of Scottish team Aberdeen by a 5-2 aggregate scoreline. A tie against Russian Team Krasnodar in the playoffs set the scene for an uncomfortable week for the Northern Spanish team.
Krasnodar eliminated Real Sociedad by a 3-1 aggregate result but in between the two legs, a 1-0 defeat at neighbouring Eibar was an even more embarrassing result. The fellow Basque team have just been promoted from Segunda Division and play in a stadium with a mere 5,000 capacity. Eibar are considered a much inferior team to their Basque neighbours Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao and are playing La Liga football for the first time in their history.
Imagine the sense of foreboding as the Real Sociedad supporters approached the Anoeta Stadium in their home city of San Sebastian (Donostia in the Basque language) with a home match against Real Madrid on the agenda. After 12 minutes, the sense of forthcoming doom must have been overwhelming as their opponents cruised into a two goal lead.
Yet the Basque people of San Sebastian are proud football supporters and as their team stemmed the tide of Real Madrid attacks, they will have been encouraged by their team reducing the arrears with a goal scored by Inigo Martinez. Amid much home vocal enthusiasm, two further goals by David Zurutuza and a fourth from Carlos Vela completed a memorable 4-2 win for Real Sociedad.
The joyous scenes in San Sebastian on Sunday evening will have contrasted with the mood of despair during the previous week but the turnaround in results in just a few games for the Basque club emphasise how fortunes can swiftly turn in the strange game of football.
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