Real Madrid’s La Liga title hopes over?


Real Madrid‘s hopes of overtaking Barcelona at the top of the La Liga table have taken a big hit after Los Blancos were held to a 1-1 draw at impressive Malaga on Sunday afternoon.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed a first-half penalty at La Rosaleda, sent the visitors into a 33rd-minute lead, but Raul Albentosa hit back in the second period for Malaga, who dominated the contest for long spells.

The result has seen Real Madrid move level on points with second-place Atletico Madrid, but Zinedine Zidane‘s side are now nine points behind the leaders Barcelona on the same number of matches.

Cristiano Ronaldo goes down on his knees after missing a penalty during the La Liga game between Malaga and Real Madrid on February 20, 2016

Real Madrid were without Raphael Varane (suspension) and Karim Benzema (hip problem) for the clash, while James Rodriguez was rested. That allowed Nacho, Jese Rodriguez and Mateo Kovacic to come into the XI from the Champions League fixture against Roma during the week.

As for the home side, head coach Javi Gracia introduced both Recio and Ricardo Horta to a team that had won two of their last three matches in the league.

A lively opening 10 minutes saw both sides threaten, but Malaga forward Charles just could not reach an early back-pass from Sergio Ramos, before Isco had a strike blocked down the other end of the field. Ramos had the game’s first attempt on target in the ninth minute, but his header was straight into the gloves of Carlos Kameni.

The first serious opportunity of the match came in the 17th minute when Kovacic slipped a fine pass into Jese, but Kameni was out to make a fine stop, before Isco came close with a half-volley moments later.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring during the La Liga game between Malaga and Real Madrid on February 20, 2016

Juanpi then had a golden chance for Malaga after a mistake from Toni Kroos, but the attacker could not beat Navas after going through one-on-one with the Costa Rican. The home side had an even better chance two minutes later, but Horta, who was unmarked inside the Real Madrid box, somehow missed the target.

Marcelo then set up Jese down the other end as the opportunities continued to arrive in the opening 25 minutes, but the Spanish attacker was once again denied by the legs of Kameni.

Real Madrid eventually made the breakthrough in the 33rd minute when Ronaldo headed a Kroos free kick into the back of the net, but the Portuguese did appear to be in an offside position.

Ronaldo had the chance to make it 2-0 from the penalty spot two minutes later after going down inside the box under the challenge of Weligton, but Kameni was on hand to make the save and keep his side in the match.

Malaga had another wonderful chance to level five minutes before the break when Duje Cop found himself unmarked inside the Real Madrid box, but the Croatian’s effort was saved onto the crossbar by Navas. At the break, it was the visitors that led courtesy of Ronaldo’s towering effort.

Jese and Ricardo Horta in action during the La Liga game between Malaga and Real Madrid on February 20, 2016

Malaga came close to an equaliser in the 50th minute when Horta’s strike deflected off Nacho and looked set for the top corner, but Navas was once again on hand to make a fine save.

Ronaldo was next to come close down the other end five minutes later, but the Portugal captain’s effort was saved by Kameni, who managed to keep hold of the ball under pressure.

Juanpi, who was lively all afternoon, attempted to chip Navas just past the hour as Malaga searched for the goal that they richly deserved, but the Costa Rican made the save, before Isco headed wide down the other end.

The home side were finally level in the 66th minute, however, when Albentosa fired home at the far post after the defender had been found by his fellow centre-back Weligton.

Malaga manager Javi Gracia looks on prior the La Liga match between Valencia CF and Malaga CF at Estadi de Mestalla on August 29, 2014

Isco had the ball in the back of the net in the 70th minute as Real Madrid looked to have regained the lead, but the Spaniard had just moved too soon to meet a Kovacic through ball.

Charles must have thought that he had scored for Malaga five minutes later when he headed towards the top corner, but Navas flew across his goal to save his team once again.

Ronaldo had a rare chance for Real Madrid in the second period 10 minutes from time, but the scorer of the game’s first goal could only scuff wide of the post under pressure from the impressive Weligton.

The expected onslaught from the visitors just did not arrive and Malaga played out the final minutes in relative comfort to claim what was an impressive draw for the improving hosts.

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