Real Sociedad, a club many experts predicted would be relegated when the season begun, continue to confound the critics.

They opened up a three-point lead at the top of the Spanish league on nearest rivals Real Madrid with a narrow win at home to Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Veteran midfielder De Pedro’s second half goal punished the overly defensive Celta, who were happy to sit back in numbers and hit Sociedad on the breakaway. Thus the hosts dominated possession without creating many clear chances. Indeed, De Pedro’s goal, when it finally came in thesecond half, owed much to sloppy goalkeeping from Pablo Cavallero. He allowed De Pedro’s long range shot to bounce off him into the net.

Sociedad’s real hero was Dutch keeper Westerveld, who saved a late penalty from Peter Luccin to protect his side’s three points. Incredibly, Sociedad remain unbeaten this season after only narrowly avoiding the drop over the past few campaigns.

They also have the best points to games ratio of any of the clubs in Europe’s top leagues. What a season for them!

Sunday’s eagerly awaited derby between Real and Atletico Madrid produced a scorcher of a game, Atletico earning a deserved 2-2 draw right at the death. Demetrio Albertini made the headlines with a free kick on 95 minutes that rebounded off the post, onto keeper Casillas’ head and into the net to deny Madrid their seventh league win in a row.

It was a fitting end to a match that had produced three penalties, two red cards and plenty of fireworks. Real defender Roberto Carlos was first villain then hero as he conceded an early penalty – Moreno slamming it home for the visitors – then wonone back after being tripped by Calvo on the stroke of half-time.

Figo stepped up to score his second goal of the match, having equalised for the home side earlier in the half. The Portuguese midfielder should have had a hat-trick but saw his second penalty of the night saved by Argentine Burgos.

Real boss Del Bosque said: “It seems impossible we drew after the game we witnessed, but we have to accept it.”

Elsewhere Barcelona suffered a 4-2 home defeat to Valencia, with Aimar, Carew, Aurelio and Rufete netting for the visitors. The result sees Valencia stay in touch, fourth in the table and eight points behind Sociedad. Even more worthy from the visitors point of view, was the fact that win was achieved after playing the entire second period with ten men, following the first-half dismissal of keeper Santiago Canizares.

Barcelona meanwhile move down to tenth, only five points clear of the relegation zone. To make matters worse for Barcelona, angry fans stormed the directors’ box after the game, breaking windows and blocking normal exit routes.

Deportivo La Coruna are third, level with Valencia on points after they came from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in the Riazor.