Cristiano Ronaldo's second League goal of the season salvaged Real Madrid a 3-2 victory over lowly Malaga on Saturday.
Ronaldo needed a rebound from a missed penalty to see off Malaga, who more than stood their ground and were denied a perfectly-legal goal towards the end of the first half.
Lucas Vazquez started ahead of Luka Modric for Los Blancos, who also had Keylor Navas and Mateo Kovacic back among their substitutes, but Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos were sidelined through injury, while Nacho Fernandez was banned.
Malaga, on the other hand, matched Madrid’s 4-4-2 formation and recalled captain Recio after he had served a suspension.
The Andalusians had never won at the Bernabeu, and they appeared to be in for another tough afternoon when Vazquez failed to keep his free header down inside the opening minute.
Karim Benzema wasn’t so forgiving, however, as he pounced on Cristiano Ronaldo’s header, which slammed the crossbar, and tapped in the rebound.
Roberto Jimenez then kept Malaga in the game with a double stop to parry away a cross into the six-yard box and push away a sliding finish.
Michel Gonzalez’s side grew from that point onwards, and Toni Kroos uncharacteristically lost the ball near his own goal, resulting in Diego Rolan fabulously controlling a cross on his chest and volleying past Kiko Casilla via Jesus Vallejo’s legs.
Yet just two minutes later, Casemiro powered home a header to restore Madrid’s lead, before a slip prevented Benzema from finishing for 3-1.
Malaga suffered a blow when Juankar with stretchered off with a suspected knee injury, but they were spared by Roberto, who pulled off a fine stop to keep out Ronaldo’s curler from close range after Vazquez had spot his run with a deft reverse pass.
The Espanyol loanee somehow tipped the Portuguese’s header away from goal, but controversy struck on the stroke of half-time as Paul Baysse headed in a free kick, only for it to be disallowed, presumably due to the half-time whistle.
Kroos’ side-footer shortly after the break seemed destined for the top-right corner, but the goalkeeper managed to lift it over the bar.
Malaga nonetheless continued to knock on the door and deservedly pinned the hosts back a second time through Chory Castro, who bent a low drive past Casilla from 25 yards out, although replays show it may have taken a slight nick.
Los Merengues quickly threw on Modric, and Raphael Varane’s header squirmed for Ronaldo in the visitors’ six-yard box, but the No 7 couldn’t put it away from a yard out.
Vallejo suddenly left hearts in mouths with a sliding tackle on Borja Baston from behind in the Madrid area, but the striker evaded his challenge and tried to round Casilla. However, the custodian got just enough of a hand to brush the ball away.
Modric was soon fouled by Luis Hernandez for a clear penalty, and despite Roberto saving Ronaldo’s initial effort, the Portuguese didn’t miss out on a second bite of the cherry.
The No 7 could’ve ended the match with his first League brace of the season, but he was contentiously deemed to be offside when finishing off Vazquez’s cross.
Real Madrid 3-2 Malaga
Benzema 9, Casemiro 21, Ronaldo 76 (RM) Rolan 18, Chory 58 (M)
Real Madrid: Casilla; Carvajal, Varane, Vallejo, Marcelo; Isco (Modric 62), Casemiro, Kroos (Theo 81); Vazquez, Benzema (Mayoral 89), Ronaldo
Malaga: Roberto; Rosales, Luis Hernandez, Diego Gonzalez, Juankar (Baysse 36); Keko (Juanpi 66), Recio, Adrian, Chory; Rolan, Penaranda (Baston 61)
Referee: Gil Manzano