| Real Madrid’s Ronaldo and Espanyol’s Oscar Garcia battle for the ball during their Spanish League match at Espanyol on Sunday. The match ended 2-2. (Reuters)
Paris: Not many team in the top European football leagues can boast going 19 games without defeat — and until last evening Real Sociedad could still hold their heads higher than most.
Sociedad’s amazing unbeaten run came to an end at the home of inspired Athletic Bilbao, who handed Raynald Denoueix’ men a 3-0 drubbing.
Just to rub salt into the wounds, most of the damage was inflicted by former Sociedad star Joseba Etxeberria, who scored two and provided for the third goal by Santiago Ezquerro.
Real Sociedad, who still have a four-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the league, went into the match against their lowly Basque rivals boasting 12 wins and seven draws from 19 games.
But Etxeberria wasted no chances and was on song in the 18th minute after picking up a cross and slamming the ball home from close range.
Etxeberria added a second with quarter of an hour to go and then fed Santiago Ezquerro who beat Sociedad ’keeper sander Westerveld in the 90th minute to cap a fine night for the 13th-placed club.
Earlier in the day Real Madrid had to claw their way back from two goals down before eking out a 2-2 draw away to Espanyol.
Valencia sit a close third in the league, on 38 points, their win over Real Mallorca coming, thanks to a Mista goal in the 79th minute.
Serie A stable
Barcelona were in a bad shape Saturday at Atletico Madrid, but no such crises are being played out in the relatively stable Serie A where on Sunday Inter Milan kept pace with city rivals AC Milan after notching up a 2-0 win away to troubled Torino.
Both Milan clubs are on 42 points, with AC ahead on superior goal difference.
Juventus, who could only manage a draw away to Atalanta, sit a close third on 39 with Lazio, who drew 1-1 away to Chievo, fourth on 37.
AC Milan had put pressure on inter by beating Modena 2-1 earlier in the day, although the goals came late.
A penalty from second-half substitute Andrea Pirlo broke the deadlock 13 minutes from time, before Filippo Inzaghi’s stooping header doubled the home side’s lead.
Massimo Scopini managed to score a late consolation goal for Modena.
Asked if he was upset that his team had not scored sooner in the match, Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti replied: “If we leave it that late every week and still come away with three points I’ll be happy.
“Modena made it very hard by not allowing us space, but all credit to the team for being patient,” he added.