La Liga: Benzema scores twice, Real Madrid routs Real Sociedad

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid thrashed Real Sociedad 4-1 at home Saturday without the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo to ensure it remained top of the Spanish league.

Sociedad defender Aritz Elustondo headed in his first goal for the Basque club 36 seconds into the match, but James Rodriguez headed the hosts level in the third minute and Madrid never looked back.

Sergio Ramos scored in the 37th and Benzema made it 3-1 in the 53rd before he struck an exquisite second goal in the 76th.

Ronaldo watched from the stands at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium as he served the first of a two-game ban for kicking a Cordoba player in the last round.

Madrid opened a four-point gap over Barcelona before it hosts Villarreal on Sunday. Madrid also has a game in hand that it will play against Sevilla on Wednesday.

Third-place Atletico Madrid visited Eibar later, while Granada hosted Elche and Cordoba played at Celta Vigo.

David Moyes' Sociedad displayed little of the verve it relied on to overcome a 2-0 deficit and fight back for a stunning 4-2 victory over Madrid in August, before Moyes's arrival.

Only Geronimo Rulli's goalkeeping spared Sociedad a bigger defeat as Sociedad remained in 11th place and the only team yet to win away in the league this season.

Sociedad caught Madrid slow to start the game as left back Yuri Berchiche charged up the pitch to win a corner kick, which Ruben Pardo sent into the area for Elustondo to thump in.

But the European champions didn't take long to respond as Rodriguez slipped between Sociedad's pair of center backs to head Marcelo's pass into the corner of the net.

Sociedad never looked steady at the back, but it continued to threaten until forward Carlos Vela hurt his right knee and had to substituted in the 17th.

Rulli saved shots from Benzema and Rodriguez before turning back Benzema a second time, only for Ramos to blast in the ball and put Madrid in front for good.

With Ronaldo out, Gareth Bale had been called on to take over the scoring load. But his eagerness got the best of him in the 40th when the Welshmen intercepted Benzema's pass meant for Rodriguez and shot the ball wide with Rulli off his line.

Bale made amends after the restart when he worked a passing combination with Benzema before slipping the ball back for the striker to score.

Benzema then capped his strong showing with an unstoppable curling strike to bend the ball around Rulli.

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