Real Madrid battle way to La Liga summit

Real Madrid defenders Dani Carvajal (2nd r) and Sergio Ramos (r) got the goals at Alaves

Real Madrid have pulled off a hard-fought victory in heavy rain at Alaves to put pressure on champions Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal scored second-half goals as Madrid beat their tough Basque opponents 2-1 at the Mendizorroza Stadium to take the league lead from Barcelona, who visit fifth-placed Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

"It is clear that winning a match like today is important. A difficult pitch, with a rival who was doing well," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.

"The league is long, but this is a very important three points, especially with how the game went."

The result gave Madrid a three-point advantage over Barcelona.

They both have a game in hand because their clasico from October was postponed until December 18 because of a separatist rally in the Catalan capital.

It was a third-straight league win for Madrid, unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions.

"Today can be a benchmark in the sense that we want to continue to grow," Zidane said at his post-match press conference:

"Now we have peace of mind to continue working because things have just begun.

"There is a lot left in the league and a lot left in the season also."

Ramos scored with a header off a set-piece taken by Toni Kroos in the 52nd minute.

The Madrid captain then committed the foul leading to a penalty kick for Alaves, which was converted by Lucas Perez in the 65th - for his eighth goal in his past nine matches.

Ramos was shown a yellow card for his foul, for an apparent elbow to the face of Alaves forward Joselu.

Carvajal netted the winner from close range five minutes later off the rebound of a header by Isco.

Zidane opted to start with Alphonse Areola in goal rather than Belgian Thibaut Courtois and the Frenchman made some key second-half saves.

"(Areola) saved us, like Courtois has saved us before. He played extremely well," Zidane said.

Madrid were without the injured Eden Hazard with Isco starting in his place in the front three, alongside Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale - who produced a low-key performance.

Norway midfielder Martin Odegaard was impressive as Real Sociedad trounbced Eibar 4-1 in San Sebastian to move past Atletico and into fourth place.

The 20-year-old Odegaard, who is on loan from Real Madrid, led Sociedad's vibrant attack with his creative passing and capped the win with a fine left-footed curling strike in the 80th.

Valencia are seventh after they beat Villarreal 2-1 in a regional derby with goals from Spain striker Rodrigo Moreno and 19-year-old Ferran Torres.

Joaquin Sanchez scored a penalty and Nabil Fekir added another goal as Real Betis won 2-1 at lowly Mallorca to go 12th.