| Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane slips past Celta de Vigo’s Peter Bernard Luccin at the Balaidos Stadium in Vigo on Saturday. Real won 1-0. (AFP)
Madrid: Real Sociedad fought back from two goals down to claim a 2-2 draw at Valencia thanks to late strikes from Darko Kovacevic and Nihat Kahveci as they clung onto the leadership of the Spanish first division on Saturday.
With an early opportunist strike from Ronaldo giving an in-form Real Madrid a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo the Basque side’s lead at the top is now down to just a point. Sociedad lead the table with 37 points with Real on 36, while Valencia are a further seven points adrift in third.
Raynald Denoueix’s side looked to be beaten at the Mestalla after an early header from Fabio Aurelio and an almost comical own goal from Agustin Aranzabal saw Valencia take a 2-0 lead after an hour.
But Sociedad refused to surrender and threw everything at Valencia in the last quarter, getting the reward for their hard work when Kovacevic rifled home on the turn and Kahveci fired in the equaliser 11 minutes from time.
Ronaldo grabbed his seventh goal of the season and helped Real to their sixth straight win as he cashed in on an error by Celta goalkeeper Pablo Cavallero.
The Argentine international failed to gather the ball after Raul took a snap shot from the edge of the area and the Brazilian striker was on hand to poke home from close range to put Real ahead after just seven minutes.
Real sat back in the second half and it took a fine reflex save from Iker Casillas to prevent midfielder Edu from claiming an equaliser 20 minutes from time.
Defending champions Valencia took the early initiative against leaders Sociedad and deserved their lead when Brazilian defender Fabio Aurelio headed in on 18 minutes.
Valencia seemed content to settle with their narrow lead, but were gifted a second goal early in the second half when defender Aranzabal slotted a seemingly harmless back-pass without looking towards Dutch keeper Westerveld. He was completely out of position and left stranded as the ball trickled into the net to the joy of the 49,000 crowd.
But the new setback sparked the Basque side into life and Yugoslav striker Kovacevic grabbed his 10th goal of the season when he controlled a Kahveci through ball with his chest and cracked home past keeper Andres Palop on 69 minutes.
Meanwhile, Lazio failed to equal AC Milan’s record of eight consecutive away wins on Saturday, when they were held to a 0-0 draw by Brescia. Strikers Bernardo Corradi and Claudio Lopez were unable to find the finishing touch.
Instead it was Brescia who enjoyed the best chance of the match when a clever back-heel by Igli Tare in the 55th minute put fellow-striker Jonathan Bachini one-on-one with Lazio keeper Angelo Peruzzi, who saved the shot.
The result brought Lazio level on points with AC Milan and Inter Milan at the top of Serie A. In an earlier match, a last-gasp goal by Empoli striker Tommaso Rocchi gave his side a 1-1 draw with Serie A stragglers Torino.