Real Madrid proved too much for a spirited Malaga on Sunday, coming away with a 2-1 victory to move back up to third in La Liga.
Isco scored on his return to La Rosaleda with a fabulous free kick and Casemiro finished off one of the best team goals of the season, but Malaga showed enough fight to add to Diego Rolan's late consolation.
Madrid dropped Raphael Varane, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo for the trip to Andalusia, as well as resting Marcelo and Toni Kroos, while the hosts came into the match 14 points adrift at the bottom.
Los Merengues had lost just one of their 35 previous meetings with the hosts, and Roberto Jimenez was called into a save early on, somehow clawing Mateo Kovacic’s free header off the line.
Lucas Vazquez then looped over a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but he could only stand and watch Isco’s free kick fly past him, on his return to Spain’s south coast.
However, Malaga should’ve got to half-time at 1-1 as Manuel Iturra quickly snuffed out Keylor Navas’ awful backpass for Casemiro yet failed to beat the goalkeeper from point-blank range.
Nonetheless, the Brazilian went on to tuck away a superb team move after Karim Benzema feinted a shot, playing a through ball to Isco, who cut back for the goalscorer.
Malaga, to their credit, didn’t drop off and forced Keylor into a fingertip stop from a long-range drive, before he acrobatically punched a free kick clear.
They did pull one back, albeit deep in stoppage time, when Diego Rolan – arguably the Andalusians’ best outfieid player – punished Jesus Vallejo for a mistake.
Malaga 1-2 Real Madrid
Rolan 90 (M) Isco 29, Casemiro 63 (RM)
Malaga: Roberto; Rosales, Miguel Torres, Miquel (Ivan Rodriguez 71), Ricca; Iturra; Chory, Adrian, Lacen (Bueno 53), Rolan; Ideye (Lestienne 78)
Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Vallejo, Ramos, Theo; Kovacic, Casemiro; Vazquez, Isco (Mayoral 72), Asensio (Ceballos 66); Benzema
Referee: De Burgos Bengoetxea