Cristiano Ronaldo finally scored his second league goal of the season, getting the winner in Real Madrid’s 3-2 win over Malaga.
The victory moved Real Madrid to within three points of second-placed Valencia and seven points behind leaders Barcelona. Those two play on Sunday. But this was a sloppy performance against La Liga strugglers and will do little to boost confidence in the league.
Madrid were ahead on nine minutes. Marcelo hung a deep cross up at the back post. Ronaldo hung in the area to head goalwards. And when the ball came back off the crossbar, Benzema – hanging around just inside the penalty area – reacted more quickly than any of Malaga’s defender charging in to nod the loose ball over the line.
Benzema had his second goal of the season and Malaga – who had never won at the Bernabeu ahead of this game – were a goal down with 80 minutes left to play.
Against all expectations it was Malaga who scored the next goal. Laid-back Toni Kroos played an poor pass straight to Keko and when he crossed Uruguayan forward Diego Rolan was able to bring the ball down inside the penalty area and fire it past Kiko Casilla.
It was the worst of Kroos but three minutes later we saw the best of him when his perfect corner was headed in by Casemiro. It was only the second headed goal Real Madrid have scored all season, both from their Brazilian midfielder.
Malaga lost Juankar on 35 minutes with a bad knee injury after twisting as he went into a challenge with Lucas Vazquez. The Madrid winger was the next to go down. Paul Baysse had come on to replace Juankar and trod on the Madrid winger leaving him needing treatment.
Ronaldo forced two fine saves from Roberto Jimenez as Madrid pushed for the third goal but it would be Malaga who came the closest to scoring with a goal just before half time that was rubbed out by referee Jesus Gil Manzano.
Baysse climbed above Dani Carvajal to head past Casilla. Instead of giving the goal, the referee blew his whistle and the first half ended. Malaga coach Michel was confused.
It did not look to have been a foul and if it had been a foul why was a foul not taken and then the whistle blown for half-time? The referee had judged the challenge on Baysse illegal and Madrid had a let-off.
The injustice seemed to inspire Malaga and they were level on 57 minutes when Chory Castro flashed a long-range shot past Casilla who should have done better.
Raphael Varane had given the ball away in the build-up and his goalkeeper had made sure the Malaga chance counted.
Varane tried to make up for his mistake immediately by getting up well and heading down a Lucas cross towards Ronaldo.
The old Cristiano would have pounced on it but he never got to it as the ball bounced out of play. Moments later Ronaldo misguided another header wide this time from a Kroos’ cross as frustration increased for Madrid.
But he kept on going and on 76 minutes he scored the winner. Luis Hernandez caught substitute Luca Modric late in the penalty box and Ronaldo stepped up.
His spot-kick was saved by Roberto but Ronaldo converted the rebound to give Real Madrid the three points.