Real Madrid eventually saw off stern resistance from Malaga to gain a 2-0 win at the Bernabeu and keep within sight of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the Primera Division standings. It took until early in the second half for the home side to take the lead through Angel di Maria and it wasn’t until injury time that the result was secured through a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty.
Ahead of a crucial week for Madrid in which they could all-but wrap up qualification for the Champions League knockout phase when they host Juventus before taking on Barcelona in the Clasico, it was a vital win. Still, the result is unlikely to silence early detractors of Carlo Ancelotti’s reign. It has to be said, though, that the fact that the scoreline was not more emphatic owed much to a string of fine saves from Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
Indeed, it was a somewhat fortuitous goal that finally beat him a minute after the half-time interval. Di Maria swung in a trademark in-swinging cross form the right aiming for the head of Ronaldo, but the ball missed both him and the defender leaving Caballero with no time to react to stop the ball from bouncing off the turf and accelerating into the net.
Ronaldo had been the man most frustrated by Caballero’s exploits, while Alvaro Morata, making his first start of the season, also failed to find the net despite working tirelessly and earning a standing ovation when he was taken off. It would be the young forward’s replacement who earned the penalty for the second goal.
There has been much conjecture in recent weeks about the cause of Gareth Bale’s injuries that have seen him have a stop-start beginning to his time in the Spanish capital. But the Welshman showed that he still retains the physical attributes that persuaded Madrid to pay huge fee for his services as he went past Weligton down the right of the area before being brought down by the Malaga defender as he looked to check back. Ronaldo struck an unstoppable penalty low and hard into the corner to end his and Madrid’s afternoon on a high.