Cristiano Ronaldo’s first half goal was enough to give Real Madrid a 1-0 win against a spirited Malaga side.
Isco was named in the Blancos’ starting XI, returning to his old club for the first time since his summer move. It was a surprise selection from Carlo Ancelotti, who returned to a 4-3-3 formation, with Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso also in midfield. Bernd Schuster meanwhile, opted for a 4-2-3-1 system, led by Paraguayan forward Roque Santa Cruz.
And, as their respective League positions would have suggested, it was the away side who got off to the brighter start – Isco pulling the strings early on, but the Boquerones defence was holding strong. It was almost their undoing on 10 minutes though when Marcos Angeleri fouled Gareth Bale in the box. The referee however, waved play on.
The hosts slowly started to get a foothold in the game, with speculative effort from Fernando Tissone and Duda, but Diego Lopez was untroubled and managed to keep his gloves clean for the majority of the half.
And it wasn’t long before his opposite number was called into action, picking the ball out of the net. A breakway from Bale saw the Wales international pass to Ronaldo, who cut in from the left and fired a shot past the Argentine goalkeeper for the opening goal.
The capital side were really hitting their stride now, and could have added a second soon after, but twice Ronaldo missed from close-range – first, from a smart save, and secondly after he missed the target at the far post.
Once again, Malaga weren’t down heartened and continued to press for an equaliser, but the Blancos back line was remaining resolute going into the break.
After the interval, it was the Costa del Sol side, once more, who looked threatening going forward. But as with the first 45, their shooting boots just didn’t seem to be on properly, with Samu firing straight at Diego Lopez from the edge of the area.
Profligacy seemed to be catching, as soon after, it was Isco who should have done better in front of goal. Angel Di Maria went on a barnstorming run from one end of the pitch to the other, but the Spanish youngster couldn’t finish off all his good work.
They may have been a goal down, but it was a really spirited display for Schuster’s men – the final ball though, kept letting them down. Time and again Nordin Amrabat or Duda would beat a Madrid man, but rarely did they trouble Lopez between the posts.
And they almost paid for that late on when Bale raced down the right-hand side before getting to the byline – his cross however, couldn’t find the head of Ronaldo.
The home team continued to push for that allusive equaliser, but the visitors held out for an ugly, but vital three points.
Malaga 0-1 Real Madrid
Scorers: Ronaldo 23 (RM)
Malaga: Caballero; Angeleri (El Hamdaoui 86), Sánchez, Flávio, Antunes; Camacho, Tissone (Portillo 68); Samu (Yakovenko 68), Duda, Amrabat, Santa Cruz
Real Madrid: D.López; Carvajal, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo; Modric (Illarra 90), X.Alonso, Isco (Jese 63); Bale, Benzema (Di Maria 31), C.Ronaldo