Little-used Borja Mayoral helped Real Madrid get back on track in the Spanish league on Sunday, scoring once and setting up another goal to deal Real Sociedad its first loss of the season.
Gareth Bale capped the 3-1 victory with his sixth goal in five visits to Sociedad's Anoeta Stadium. Bale's fine solo goal in the second half gave the Welshman a much-needed boost after he was criticized for not scoring in Madrid's previous back-to-back draws in the league.
"It was a great goal, but the most important thing is to get the team back on track," Bale said.
As for the jeers he has heard recently back at the Santiago Bernabeu, Bale admitted he was not at his best.
"It's normal, it happens in football. I just have to keep my head down and keep working," Bale said. "You go through ups and downs in your career and you have to bounce back."
Madrid's win left Barcelona alone atop the table with 12 points. Sevilla is second with 10, followed by Sociedad with nine. Madrid has eight points.
With Cristiano Ronaldo suspended and Karim Benzema injured, the 20-year-old Mayoral got coach Zinedine Zidane's nod to accompany Bale in attack.
Mayoral poached Madrid's first goal when Sergio Ramos controlled a ball and tried to execute a bicycle kick. He failed to make contact, but Mayoral appeared to stab the ball home in the 19th minute.
"(Mayoral) is young, but I knew he could have an important role, and he showed it tonight" Zidane said. "I am also happy for Bale. It's true there has been a lot of talk about him, but he also demonstrated the type of player he is. We need to be patient with him."
Mayoral's goal extended Madrid's run to 73 consecutive games scoring at least one goal, according to the Spanish league. Spanish media said that matched the record scoring run established by Brazilian club Santos starring Pele in 1963.
Sociedad left back Kevin Rodriguez volleyed in a cross from Alvaro Odriozola to level in the 28th.
Rodrigues almost struck again when he sent another cross by Odriozola against the crossbar, but very soon after Madrid launched a counterattack that ended with Rodriguez sending his clearance of a shot by Mayoral into his own net.
Bale sealed the result in the 61st when he sped down the pitch to reach Francisco "Isco" Alarcon's long pass behind the last defender. He then finished with a classy chip to beat goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli.
Mayoral was a Madrid youth player who made a handful of appearances with the first team before playing on loan at German club Wolfsburg last year.
"I worked and worked all week for this opportunity," Mayoral said. "The confidence that the coach has placed in me, after the rough season I had last year, it's a source of pride for me."
The loss was Sociedad's first of the season after the Basque club had won its first three matches.
"They are a very strong team and showed it from the start," Sociedad coach Eusebio Sacristan said. "It was very tough for us in the first half. They pressured us well and took control."
Ronaldo was unavailable as he completed the final match of a suspension for shoving a referee after he was sent off during the season-opening Spanish Super Cup.
A TV cameraman was injured during the match, apparently in celebrations by fans after Sociedad's first goal. He needed to have his left leg placed in a brace before he was carried off.
Luis Muriel's first goal for Sevilla was good enough to earn a 1-0 win at Girona and keep his new team on the heels of Barcelona.
The Colombia forward struck in the 69th by driving a left-footed shot past 'keeper Gorka Iraizoz, who got a hand on the ball but couldn't keep it out.
New coach Eduardo Berizzo has kept Sevilla undefeated this season in both La Liga and the Champions League, which it opened with a 2-2 draw at Liverpool.
Alaves fired coach Luis Zubeldia after a 3-0 loss at home to Villarreal left it in last place with no points.
Zubeldia was in his first season with Alaves. The Argentine is the first coach to be fired in the league this season.
Villarreal was led by forward Cedric Bakambu, who scored twice, while Carlos Bacca added another goal.
REMY TO THE RESCUE
Former Chelsea forward Loic Remy secured a 1-0 win for Las Palmas over Athletic Bilbao in the Canary Islands.
Remy entered the match in the 63rd and broke the deadlock with three minutes remaining, when he cut back around a defender on the left side of the area before driving the ball under Bilbao goalie Kepa Arrizabalaga.