With Cristiano Ronaldo acting as facilitator rather than scorer, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale fired off one goal apiece and Real Madrid squeezed past Malaga 2-1 at La Rosaleda on Saturday.
La Liga’s leading scorer held steady at 20 goals for the term, but aided the Frenchman Benzema on his second goal in as many La Liga games while Bale notched his first goal in the last three matches.
Los Boquerones couldn’t sustain any sort of consistent attack in the first half, but came through strong in the final 45 minutes, capped by forward Roque Santa Cruz’s well-timed header goal in extra time.
Yet it was a valiant effort by Malaga’s defense. They managed to hold a Madrid attack that had scored 26 goals in their previous six matches to nine shots on target and two goals. Goalkeeper Carlos Kameni recorded seven saves on the day, and Madrid’s Iker Casillas nearly equaled him with six saves.
Still the victory provides Madrid with more cushion over second place Barcelona. Malaga stays in sixth place while holding off Celta Vigo, though the three points could have helped them surge past Sevilla for fifth.
With Malaga’s backline displaying tremendous discipline and forcing seven Madrid offside flags, Los Blancos and Ronaldo ignited fastbreaks to catch Los Boquerones off guard.
Madrid first got on the board in the 18th minute, with Ronaldo slipping a low cross to Benzema behind the backline and in front of the net for a deflection and 1-0 lead.
Bale struck the insurance goal from long-range in the 83rd. Ronaldo drew the defense’s attention at midfield and headed his second assist on the day to Bale, who rifled a right-footed shot past Kameni for a 2-0 lead.
Madrid fired off 10 total shots in the first half, with six on target, but could only break through the Malaga defense once. Malaga’s defense has greatly improved this term, giving up only six goals in the last six matches, compared to a squad that surrendered 46 all of last season.