Real suffer killer blow

Real Madrid's fading title hopes were handed what could have been a knock-out blow as they lost 3-2 at Malaga.

Last Updated: 22/12/12 at 23:22

Isco celebrates for Malaga

Isco celebrates for Malaga

More of the games that matter

Upgrade in minutes or watch with a NOW TV Day Pass.

Real Madrid's fading title hopes were handed what could have been a knock-out blow on Saturday night after the stuttering champions slumped to defeat at Malaga to fall 16 points behind Primera Division leaders Barcelona.

Substitute Roque Santa Cruz struck twice in three second-half minutes to help fourth-placed Malaga heap the pressure on Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, who created a surprise by omitting captain Iker Casillas from his starting line-up.

Madrid dominated the first half but were unable to turn their possession into goals and were made to pay as Isco put Malaga ahead in the 48th minute.

An own goal from Sergio Sanchez drew Madrid level midway through the second half but Santa Cruz, who had been on the pitch less than 10 minutes, stunned the visitors by putting Malaga 3-1 ahead with a double strike in the 73rd and 76th minutes.

Benzema pulled another goal back with eight minutes remaining but Madrid could not find an equaliser as they slumped to a fourth league defeat of the season - twice as many as they suffered in winning the title last season.Even though Mourinho said last week it was "almost impossible" for his side to catch Barca following Madrid's disappointing home draw with Espanyol, the champions would not have wanted to give their title up without a fight.

And despite Barca moving further clear with a 3-1 win at Real Valladolid earlier this evening, Madrid looked in determined mood during the first half at La Rosaleda.

The unexpected omission of Casillas caused a stir before kick-off but his replacement Antonio Adan had little to do in the opening period as Madrid dominated.

Cristiano Ronaldo saw his early dipping swerving free-kick well saved by Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero before the Portugal international spurned a great chance in the 24th minute when he sliced an Angel Di Maria cross wide at the far post.

Di Maria then failed to make the most of a fine pass from Ronaldo as his lob over Caballero lacked pace and was cleared by a covering defender while Pepe saw a powerful header fly straight into the hands of Caballero as the first half finished goalless.

Madrid were soon made to rue not making the most of their first-half possession as Malaga took the lead just three minutes into the second half when Isco found the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box.

That sparked a purple patch for Malaga which could have seen them put Madrid out of the contest.

Francisco Portillo was denied by Adan following a rapid breakaway before the ever-dangerous Joaquin and Javier Saviola fired efforts just wide of the far post.

Madrid weathered the storm, though, and were soon piling men forward in search of an equaliser with Benzema shooting wide and Ronaldo being denied by a crucial Martin Demichelis tackle.

Mourinho's men got back on terms in the 66th minute thanks to a stroke of good fortune when Benzema fired the ball into the foot of Sanchez eight yards out and saw it roll past Caballero.

That would have come as a big relief to the champions, but they were not on level terms for long as Manuel Pellegrini's Malaga restored their lead seven minutes later.

Adan blocked Joaquin's clever back-heel at the front post but the loose ball ran across the face of goal and Santa Cruz raced in to slam his shot into the unguarded net.

The Paraguay international was not finished there, either, and he made it 3-1 after latching onto a Joaquin pass and firing a first-time shot past Adan at his near post.

That left Madrid with too much to do and although Benzema volleyed in Ozil's low cross to reduce the arrears in the 82nd minute, the visitors were left nursing another defeat and the increasing realisation the title looks to be heading back to the Nou Camp.

More of the games that matter

Upgrade in minutes or watch with a NOW TV Day Pass.

Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

L

oved the article. i remember at school, after failing an exam, I would become obscenely secretly happy if I discover that others failed as well. Misery loves company...Now here is to hoping Chelsea joins the party and Stoke city wins the league...Cheers!

gabu
The Premier League: As Crazy As A Bag Of Snakes

C

haos reached its ultimate reckoning last weekend with Tony Hibbert looking assured at left back and Osman looking like a cultured ball playing midfielder before busting a gut to get to the back post for a Samuel Eto'o ball. Different chaos but chaos. If Kone scores the winner tonight I fear the world will end.

jelasfirsttouch
The Premier League: As Crazy As A Bag Of Snakes

A

beautiful demonstration of why stats mean diddly-squat in football.

cheshire-gooner
WhoScored's PL Team Of 2014 So Far...

Footer 365

Brandao jailed over headbutt on Motta

Brazilian striker Brandao jailed and fined 20,000 euros (£15,850) for headbutting Paris Saint-Germain's Thiago Motta.

Jack Wilshere has had ankle surgery and the Arsenal man will be out for around three months

Arsenal will be without Jack Wilshere for around three months after the midfielder underwent ankle surgery.

International football: England up seven places in latest FIFA rankings

England have jumped seven places to 13th place in the latest FIFA rankings following a six-match winning run.

Mail Box

Arsenal Fans Are Full Of Hope Again...

Arsenal fans have been sucked back into believing Wenger can bring the glory years back after beating Borussia Dortmund. Plus, more on Liverpool's worrying decline...

Makes Sense To Make Gerrard Liverpool Manager

That's the thoughts of one Mailboxer, who wants Jamie Carragher as defensive coach. Plus views on Arsenal, Malmo v Juventus, Alexis Sanchez & tremendous improvement...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property