Afternoon all! The first of our three back-to-back live commentaries in La Liga comes from Zaragoza as the home side welcome upwardly-mobile Real Sociedad
. Zaragoza have managed just five points from their last six league matches, while Sociedad have managed 11 in the same period. Both are in need of the points this afternoon, but for very different reasons.
In terms of the recent meetings between the two sides, Sociedad have certainly enjoyed the better of it with four wins from their last five matches against Zaragoza. They were 2-1 winners in the corresponding fixture last season, with Zaragoza’s last home win against Sociedad coming in October 2011. However, much has changed at both clubs since then.
Zaragoza picked up a 1-1 draw against Malaga last time out, but a poor run of form has seen them slip down the table into 15th position. They are just four points off the relegation zone and are in real danger of being pulled into a battle in the remaining 18 matches of the season. Looking at the numbers, it is not hard to see why they have struggled this season.
They have managed just 22 goals in their 22 league matches this season, with just three teams in La Liga registering a worse return. That is in contrast to Sociedad, who have scored 35 goals, the fourth-best record in the division. Zaragoza have fared better down the other end, with 31 goals conceded, in contrast to Sociedad, who have conceded 28.
Sociedad, meanwhile, put in arguably their best performance of the season as they overcome Malaga last time out. Their impressive run of form started on January 6 when they were narrowly beaten 4-3 by Real Madrid, before drawing with Deportivo, beating Barcelona, drawing with Celta and then beating Malaga.
Their goal at the beginning of the season would have been to secure a mid-table finish, but with under half of the season to play, they are one of about six teams that could crash the top four. You would expect that Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid would occupy the top three positions, but the final Champions League spot is very much open to offers.
ZARAGOZA: Jimenez; Paredes, Sapunaru, Gonzalez, Litri; Romaric, Movilla, Apono, Montanes; Postiga, Victor
SOCIEDAD: Bravo; Mikel, De la Bella, C Martinez, I Martinez; Prieto, Illarra, Bergara, Agirretxe; Vela, Griezmann
So there we have it. Zaragoza name arguably their strongest available side with Helder Postiga joining Victor Rodriguez in the final third, while Paco Montanes and Apono both start. Sociedad pair Carlos Vela and Antoine Griezmann
in attack once more, but there is no place in the starting team for Ruben Pardo.
No team in La Liga has a worse home record than Zaragoza, with just three wins from 10 matches, losing six in the process. Sociedad’s away record is far from spectacular with two wins from 10 matches, but they will see this match as the type of game that they simply have to win if they are harbouring hopes of finishing in a European position this season.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch ahead of kickoff. The pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. Just about time for my pre-match prediction. Sociedad have been in a good run of form in recent weeks, therefore I am backing them to come away with the three points, with Vela on the scoresheet.
Today's referee is Jesus Gil. Let's hope that we can keep all 22 players on the pitch this afternoon with an influx of red cards in La Liga this season. Much is at stake, but hopefully the players will keep their emotions in check. Here we go then, the home side get the action underway. Be sure to remain with us for the entirety of the action.
Not a full house inside the stadium this afternoon, but a good atmosphere nonetheless. Zaragoza really need to start picking up some results, especially on their home patch, or they will be pulled into a relegation battle. Decent start from the home side as Apono attempts to feed Victor in the box, but Mikel is across to clear at the vital moment.
Again it's good work from the home side as Sapunaru comes forward from defence before drilling a low cross into the box, but Carlos Martinez is on hand to clear. The away side, who have lost just one of their last five games, attempt to break as Vela finds Bergara, but Paredes clears. High-tempo start to proceedings here.
Neither side has really settled into the match thus far with passes going astray and a couple of free kicks just upsetting the early tempo. You just get the feeling that the first goal in this match - if there indeed is one - will have a huge say on the final result. Zaragoza continue to pressure with a couple of crosses into the Sociedad box, but it comes to nothing on each occasion.
Just a quick reminder that following the completion of this match we have two more back-to-back La Liga fixtures. Be sure to remain with us for that. Back to this match, not too much to report in the early stages, but Zaragoza have certainly seen more of the ball inside the opening eight minutes.
A horror moment from Roberto Jimenez almost presents the chance to Vela as a back-pass runs under his foot, but the Spaniard just manages to get back to clear the danger. Better from the away side in the last couple of minutes as Bergara, Xabi Prieto and Vela start to see more of the ball in the final third.
Sapunaru continues to burst forward from defence for the home side as he collects possession on the right before driving into the Sociedad half, but Prieto is across at the vital moment to clear the danger. Apono whips the resulting corner into the box, but it just evades Paredes before moving out for a goal kick. Just about 12 minutes on the clock and the score remains 0-0.
GOAL! Real Zaragoza 0-1 Real Sociedad (Griezmann)
Sociedad take the lead with their first real chance on goal as Griezmann collects a pass from Vela before firing his effort into the bottom corner. Just about as cool as you like from the Frenchman, who is in a fine run of form.
That is a real sucker blow for Zaragoza, who have enjoyed the better attacking moments in this match. They attempt to respond immediately as Postiga meets a cross from Apono, but he can only head over the crossbar from close range. Zaragoza just cannot afford to fall 2-0 behind in this match, especially not this early.
Another half-chance comes for the away side as Vela forces a corner. The set piece is whipped into the box by Griezmann, but Inigo Martinez can only head straight at the goalkeeper. A quick note that Martinez has recently signed a new deal with Sociedad, he has been fantastic this season. Little under 16 minutes on the clock and Sociedad lead 1-0.
The end-to-end period in this game continues as Montanes whips a dangerous ball into the penalty area, it falls to Postiga, but the striker just cannot get enough power on the strike to beat the goalkeeper. The home side have to keep believing that they will get chances, but they simply cannot afford to concede another.
In fairness to the home supporters they are staying with their side in the early stages of this match. Another half-chance comes to Victor as the striker thumps an effort from outside the box, but it was always moving high of the crossbar. Meanwhile, Sociedad continue to threaten on the counter with Vela and Griezmann.
Not too much to report in the last couple of moments, but Zaragoza are enjoying more of the ball. The problem for the home side is that they cannot afford to push too far up the pitch because of the pace that Sociedad possess. But I would be surprised if we had seen the last of the goals this afternoon.
Hector Ortega (Real Zaragoza
) The home side are reduced to 10 men early in this match as Ortega picks up his second yellow card for a dangerous foul on Vela. That is the last thing that his team need at this stage of proceedings. They must play the rest of this game with 10 men.
It really is an untidy match at the moment as another heavy challenge comes in from Prieto on Victor. The home supporters want retribution in the shape of a red card, but the referee waves play on. This game has got some real spice in it as we approach the 30-minute mark.
Sociedad attempt to make the most of their man advantage as Vela drives down the left before drilling a low cross into the box, but Paredes is on hand to clear at the vital moment. No moment on the Zaragoza bench which is a surprise having lost a defender at such an early stage. Another Sociedad goal at this stage could effectively end this match.
The change is indeed made as Movilla is replaced by Jose Manuel Fernandez. It was a movement that needed to be made. What must Manolo Jimenez be thinking? His team are struggling, with 10 men and a goal behind. But this is football and we all know how quickly things can change.
Little under 15 minutes of the first period remaining and there is not too much to report in terms of chances. Sociedad have seen more of the ball since Zaragoza were reduced to 10 men, but they have thus far been unable to create any real chances. However, Zaragoza's disciplinary problems continue as Sapunaru also has his name taken.
GOAL! Real Zaragoza 0-2 Real Sociedad (Agirretxe)
Sociedad do indeed have their second of the match as Agirretxe collects possession just inside the penalty area before turning and thumping a powerful effort into the corner of the net. That is another stunning finish. Is this game over already?!
Sociedad are just about as comfortable as you could ever imagine as they pass and probe in the Zaragoza half with little over 10 minutes of the half remaining. That red card has just killed this game as a contest. Another goal for the away side before the interval and it really could get nasty in the second period.
Vela comes close to adding Sociedad's third as he pounces on a loose ball in the penalty area, but Paredes comes back to clear at the vital moment. Zaragoza attempt to break down the other end with Postiga, but Mikel fells the Portuguese just outside the penalty box.
Another half-chance comes to the away side as Agirretxe fires a low cross into the box, but this time Roberto is on hand to collect under pressure from Vela. It must be said that the Mexican striker and Griezmann have formed a really dangerous partnership in the last few weeks. No surprise that their form has been so good.
Zaragoza just cannot get out of their own half at the moment as they continue to hand possession straight back to the away side each time they attempt to string a couple of passes together. Postiga sees the ball for what seems like the first time in this half, but is quickly surrounded by three defenders.
Not too much to report in the final stages of this half with Sociedad comfortable in keeping possession in the opposing half. A penalty appeal comes for the home side as Mikel appears to handle in the box, but the referee is not interested and play is continued.
Sociedad continue to threaten as Illara drives into the Zaragoza box, but he just cannot make contact with the cross from Vela. Meanwhile, the fourth official indicates that we will play an additional one minute of stoppage time. Sociedad are just so comfortable.
HALF-TIME: Real Zaragoza 0-2 Real Sociedad
So there we have it. Sociedad lead 2-0 at the interval courtesy of goals from Griezmann and Agirretxe. In truth, it has been just about as comfortable as Sociedad could ever imagine. Zaragoza are also down to 10 men having lost Hector Ortega in the first period.
Let's take a look at some statistics from the opening half of football. Sociedad have dominated the possession with 58%, while they have had seven attempts to Zaragoza's two. The fact that the home side failed to register a single shot on target tells you everything that you need to know.
What about the benches for this evening? The home side have a host of attacking options on the bench with Leo Franco and Ruben Rochina both capable of influencing proceedings. However, the away side also have options with Ruben Pardo and Javi Ros in their squad for this particular match.
As it stands, Sociedad would move into sixth position in the table, above the kikes of Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano, who are both yet to play this weekend. Meanwhile, Zaragoza would drop to 16th position in the table, just four points outside the bottom three.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch ahead of the second period. One change at the interval for the home side with Henri Bienvenu replacing Victor. A reminder that following the completion of this match we have action from Athletic Bilbao against Espanyol. Sociedad get the half underway.
Strong start to the second period from the home side as Postiga collects possession out wide before firing a low cross into the penalty area, but he lets his frustration known as not one of his teammates bursts into the box. Zaragoza simply have to score early on to have a chance of taking something from this match.
The worry for the home side is that their supporters have just started to turn and it is creating an atmosphere inside the stadium. Meanwhile, each time the referee awards a free kick to the away side, the Zaragoza players seem to get involved. The last thing they need is another player sent off at this stage of the match.
Slightly untidy period of the match in the last few moments with neither side taking too much care in possession of the ball. A half-chance does arrive for the away side as Vela evades two challenges before driving a low cross into the box, but for once there is not one of his teammates in the area. That could have been game over.
Strong spell from the away side at the moment as they continue to pass and probe in the Zaragoza half. If there were any doubts as to whether this game is over, then another goal for Sociedad would certainly secure the points. It is easy to see why Zaragoza have struggled for form and results in recent weeks.
Half-chance for the home side this time as Postiga meets a through pass from Romaric, but Bravo is out at the vital moment to clear the danger. In fairness to the Portuguese striker, he has simply not had the service this afternoon. He has scored goals this season, but his frustration can be felt each time he loses possession of the ball.
Another half-chance comes to the home side as Apono collects possession outside the box before striking an effort towards the top corner, but it was always moving high and wide of the crossbar. Little over 30 minutes remaining and as it stands Sociedad will move into sixth spot in the table. Some season they are having.
Again it's good work from the away side as Mikel combines with Vela before driving a low cross into the box, but Roberto is out to collect the danger at the vital moment. In truth, the second period has been a slight non-event with the match as a contest all but over. That is unless Zaragoza can score.
Sociedad continue to play the better football as Vela collects possession from Griezmann before striking an effort towards goal, but it just moves wide of the target. The man advantage is so noticeable at the moment. The away side want a penalty as Agirretxe goes down in the box, but the referee waves play on.
Handbags between the two sets of players as Apono appears to stamp on Agirretxe. However, it does not appear that the referee will be taking any serious action. The replays have shown that it was very nasty from the midfielder. He deserves to be sent off for that period of action. Terrible sportsmanship.
Time is certainly not on Zaragoza's side as the minutes continue to pass in this match. In truth, not a great deal has happened in this second period, but Sociedad will not mind with their two-goal lead still very much in tact. The onus is on Zaragoza to open up and attempt to force their way back into this match.
A half-chance comes to Romaric as he strikes an effort from just outside the box, but it deflects behind for a corner. The resulting set piece is also taken by the midfielder, but Postiga thumps it wide of the target. That just about sums up their afternoon of football. Little over 20 minutes remaining.
Another half-chance comes to Vela as the Mexican drives into the penalty area before striking towards the bottom corner, but it was always moving wide of the target. The best chances of the second period have certainly come to the away side. Not too surprisingly.
The referee is called into action once more as Postiga becomes the latest player to have his name taken for a poor challenge on Illarra. Once more, it was not a good challenge from the striker. The resulting free kick allows Vela to fire a cross into the box, but Roberto comes out to claim under pressure from Prieto.
The chances continue to fall for Vela as the striker drives into the penalty area before attempting to find a strike on goal, but Paredes is across to make a fine challenge at the vital moment. A third goal would certainly reflect the difference between these teams this afternoon. Little over 15 minutes of football remaining and Zaragoza make their final change as Rochina replaces Montanes.
The away side make a change of their own as Vela is replaced by Chory Castro for the final stages of this match. Unless there is a sensational turnaround in the remaining moments, then Sociedad will move into sixth position in the table. Meanwhile, Zaragoza would drop one place to 16th. They really need to find some form, especially on their home patch.
Better from the home side in the last couple of moments as Romaric picks up possession before firing a high pass towards Postiga, but the striker just cannot collect. The pressure remains as Rochina strikes a low effort, but it was always moving wide of the target. Little over 10 minutes of football remaining.
The away side make another change as Ruben Pardo comes on to replace Illarramendi for the final stages of this match. It has been better from the home side in the past few minutes, but they have not really been able to find a way through this stern Sociedad defence as Postiga is forced into a long-range effort, which is straight at Bravo.
Just a reminder that following the completion of this match we have action from Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol, be sure to remain with us for that one. As it stands, Sociedad are moving into sixth position in the table. They continue to pass and probe in the Zaragoza half, but chances have been at a premium in this second period.
Another half-chance comes to the away side as Griezmann strikes a powerful effort from close range, but Roberto is on hand to palm clear of the penalty area. You just get the feeling that there could be one more goal in this match, but it does appear that it will a third for Sociedad rather than a route back into the game for the home side.
Not too much to report in the final stages of this match as Sociedad continue to pass and probe in the Zaragoza half. This match has been over as a contest since the away side scored the second goal. It appears that the home supporters know it as well as they begin to make their way to the exit in time for their Sunday tea.
Another half-chance comes to the away side as Griezmann drives forward from defence before striking an effort towards the top corner, but Roberto is on hand to make another fine save. He has certainly kept the score down in this second period. Little over two minutes of normal time to play.
The away side continue to press in the final stages, but they cannot find the third. Meanwhile, they make their third and final change of the match as Carlos Martinez is replace by Daniel Estrada. The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional two minutes of stoppage time.
Not too much to report in the final stages of this match. Sociedad force a couple of corners, but neither comes to anything with Roberto once more impressing for the home side. Sociedad's push up the table continues, but Zaragoza need to find some form on their own patch.
PENALTY: The home side are awarded a penalty as Postiga is caught in the penalty area by Bergara. It appears that Apono will take the penalty.
GOAL! Real Zaragoza 1-2 Real Sociedad (Apono)
Apono does indeed step up to convert his penalty into the top corner. However, it is nothing more than a consolation with the referee ready to blow the final whistle.
FULL-TIME: Real Zaragoza 1-2 Real Sociedad
So there we have it. Sociedad score twice in the first period to pick up a 2-1 win over Zaragoza. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action and remain with us for Bilbao against Espanyol. Until then!