MÁLAGA-REAL MADRID

Real kiss the title goodbye

Cristiano scored one and missed a penalty as Los Blancos struggled to a draw that sees them end the weekend nine points behind Barça.

Real kiss the title goodbye
EFE

Real Madrid surrendered further ground to La Liga leaders Barcelona after Raúl Albentosa's leveller meant Zinedine Zidane's men were restricted to a point by a lively Málaga side on Sunday.

The draw leaves Real nine points adrift of Los Azulgranas, who won at Las Palmas on Saturday, while second-place Atlético - next up for Madrid in the league - could have gone three clear of their city rivals later in the day had they not been held by VillarrealOnly one club has ever overhauled a nine-point deficit to claim the Spanish championship: Barça in 1998-99.

With Pepe and Gareth Bale already out injured and Raphael Varane suspended, Los Blancos were handed a further selection setback on the eve of the game when striker Karim Benzema was ruled out of the trip to La Rosaleda with a hip complaint.

Academy graduate Jesé Rodríguez came in for Benzema in attack, while fellow youth product Nacho Fernández was drafted in to partner captain Sergio Ramos at the heart of the defence. Bernabéu boss Zidane also opted to start midfielder Mateo Kovacic, James Rodríguez dropping to the bench.

And an entertaining initial 45 in Andalusia saw early openings for Real's Ramos and Isco, before Málaga spurned two fantastic opportunities to take the lead. First Juanpi shot weakly at Keylor Navas when Toni Kroos' error left him through on goal, before Ricardo Horta sliced wide from a wonderful position at the back post.

But after Kameni had denied Jesé from close range following great work by Marcelo, the visitors went in front with just over half an hour gone. Kroos delivered the free-kick from the right, and Cristiano rose to head in superbly past keeper Carlos Kameni - with replays showing that the forward was offside when the German sent in his cross.

FUTBOL 15/16Ronaldo's header beats Kameni to put Madrid ahead.

No sooner had Cristiano opened the scoring than he was presented with the opportunity to double his team's advantage from 12 yards two minutes later, Weligton felling him in the box. However, the 31-year-old saw his penalty saved by Kameni.

With Málaga causing their guests difficulties throughout, Real custodian Navas had to be alert to deny Duje Cop (with assistance from Ramos on the goalline) and keep out a deflected Horta drive either side of the break. But midway through the second period, the Costa Rican was helpless to prevent the hosts from equalising.

Albentosa (right) celebrates his equaliser against Real.

Recio fed Weligton on the left, and the Brazilian's centre travelled right across the visiting goalmouth to the far post, where Albentosa powerfully side-footed high into the Real net. It could have got worse for Zidane's charges, too: sandwiched between inviting chances squandered by Marcelo and Cristiano, Charles' header on the run forced Navas into another smart stop.

In time added on, second-half substitute James might have snatched a late, scarcely deserved winner when Marcelo found him in shooting territory on the edge of the penalty area - but the Colombian could only volley into Kameni's hands, as Real Madrid's title hopes were all but extinguished in southern Spain.