Real Madrid 2-1 Málaga: full-time summary
Real Madrid endured an uncomfortable afternoon on Saturday as two Sergio Ramos goals proved enough to beat Málaga 2-1 and end a run of two defeats.
'Winter champions' - but unconvincingly so
Real had seen a 40-game unbeaten sequence halted at Sevilla in LaLiga last Sunday, before losing at home to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey in midweek.
But despite returning to winning ways - and being proclaimed 'winter champions' as LaLiga's leaders at the halfway stage - the manner of the victory leaves Zinedine Zidane with plenty of food for thought.
Marcelo off with injury
And a first-half hamstring injury suffered by key left-back Marcelo - the Brazilian is to undergo tests on Monday - was also a major black mark on the three points.
After glaring misses by Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, Chory Castro hit the post for Málaga before Marcelo was forced off prior to the half-hour mark.
Ramos double puts Real two to the good
That blow was fresh in the memory when Ramos cheered the Madridistas by rising to head the hosts into the lead, bulleting Toni Kroos' corner past Carlos Kameni.
And with half time approaching, Ramos stuck out a leg to divert a Kroos free-kick past Kameni - with replays showing the skipper was offside.
However, Málaga had by no means been push-overs before the break - and in the second 45 set about ensuring Los Blancos weren't to get the comfortable win they appeared to be heading for after Ramos' brace.
Málaga close to bringing it back to 2-2
First, Juanpi pulled one back for Marcelo Romero's men midway through the period, smashing in the rebound after Keylor Navas had parried Juankar's effort.
Then, barely a minute later, Los Boquerones should have been level as Castro surged into the Madrid area and forced Navas to beat out his low drive.
Cristiano, who along with Benzema had a miserable day in attack, came closest to re-establishing a two-goal lead, but was denied by Kameni - after the keeper had farcically almost let a backpass run into his own net - and by the inside of the post.
Better needed in Vigo on Wednesday
And when referee Jesús Gil brought a nervy second half to an end, Zidane's side had put a stop to a three-match winless run - but will have to be much better if they're to stage a Copa second-leg comeback at Celta in four days' time.
Los Merengues end the day four points clear of Sevilla, who can cut the deficit back to a provisional one point on Sunday (with Real holding a game in hand).
Here's how it happened:
Real Madrid 2-1 Málaga: second half
Peeeeeep! And that, ladies and gents, is that. Real win, but the locals are less than convinced.
Min 94 | Fornals has a shooting chance for Málaga on the edge of the Real Madrid area, but it's blocked. Real then break, and can score a third here - but Morata gets his pass to Vázquez completely wrong.
Min 93 | Málaga have a chance to swing it into the home team's box, and there are a lot of shouts of "ay, ay, ay" in the AS newsroom as Real's backline momentarily struggle to clear - but they do.
Min 91 | Kroos delivers a free-kick onto Morata's head, and it's deflected behind for a corner. which comes to nought.
Min 90 | Ufff. Vázquez loses it on the Real right, and Málaga are all set to break very dangerously - but Gil Manzano pulls it back for a foul on the Madrid winger. Lucky boy. Four minutes will be added on.
Min 87 | Kroos swings a cross from the left over to the far post, and Cristiano's header is well off target. He was offside anyway. He could play all day and not score, one suspects.
Min 85 | Santos is the next man into the book, for a foul on Nacho. Lucas Vázquez was also shown a yellow card moments ago, for a foul on Recio.
Min 83 | Camacho was booked for the foul that led to that Kroos free-kick a few minutes ago, incidentally.
Min 82 | A final change for Real Madrid, Benzema withdrawn for Álvaro Morata. Some whistles for the Frenchman, who hasn't had his best ever day at the office.
Min 81 | Cristiano - who appears to have got over whatever niggle he had pickd up - is denied again, the striker firing a shot low across goal that Kameni saves.
Min 78 | Changes for both teams as Luka Modric comes off to warm applause and is replaced by Mateo Kovacic, while Michael Santos is thrown on for Málaga in place of Peñaranda. Meanwhile, Varane heads a Kroos free-kick off target.
Min 76 | It really is not Cristiano's day. Modric finds him completely free at the back post, and he chests the ball down and thumps it towards the far corner...but it bounces out off the inside of the post! To add insult to injury, he appears to be limping after that spurned chance.
Min 74 | Oh Kameni! The Málaga goalkeeper really is box office. It's played back to the Cameroonian, stationed on the edge of the area, and he gets his control all wrong, completely missing the ball and watching it head straight on towards his net. He's forced into a hasty about turn to chase it down and clear it before it crosses the line. His clearance is straight to Cristiano, who looks to bury it - but Kameni deflects it off target!
Min 72 | A second substitution for Málaga as Martín Demichelis comes on for his second debut for Los Blanquiazules, with Juankar struggling and needing to be brought off.
Min 69 | The Bernabéu crowd are exceptionally restless.
Min 67 | Cristiano tries to feed Benzema, but it's cut out - and the Portuguese striker isn't happy that play isn't brought back for an earlier tug. Málaga have made their first change, woodwork-botherer Chory Castro making way for Jony Rodríguez.
Min 66 | There's a shooting chance for Lucas in the box, but it's over with (I think) the aid of a deflection.
Min 65 | My, my, my! Málaga should be level! Barely a minute has passed since Juanpi's goal, and Castro is in on Keylor, powering a left-footed shot across goal...but the keeper saves! Whistles resound around the Bernabéu. The locals ain't happy.
Min 64 | Gooooal! Well well well! Málaga pull one back! Juankar bursts into the box from the left and thrashes a shot at goal, which Keylor parries only as far as Juanpi - and the Venezuelan pumps it into the net!
Min 62 | Cristiano is in...no he isn't! Flag is up!
Min 60 | Recio feeds Juankar on the left, but his cross is right into Keylor's arms. Málaga then come again, poping it about nicely, and find the left-back again - and this time his cross is better, forcing Ramos to get his head in the way and giving the visitors the chance from a corner. It comes to nothing, though.
Min 57 | Casemiro dawdles on it in his own box and Peñaranda picks his pocket, before the Brazilian gets it back - and promptly does his best to allow the Málaga striker to have a second bite at the cherry. Real clear in the end.
Min 53 | Marcelo is set to have tests on his hamstring injury on Monday.
Min 51 | Kroos was fouled in the process of finding Nacho, and Real have a free-kick on the left that the German will take. He sends it into the box, but the flag is up. Recio then fires an effort for Málaga that's comfortable for Navas in the Madrid goal.
Min 50 | Kroos threads a neat little ball to find Nacho's run on the left, but the academy product's low cross is cut out.
Min 47 | There are some serious question marks surround whether or not Ramos' second goal should have stood, by the way. Replays suggest he was marginally off when Kroos sent in his free-kick.
Min 46 | No sooner is the second period underway than Juankar is down in a heap after a challenge with Nacho. He appears to be OK, before the left-back then collides with team-mate Camacho in an aerial ball. The midfielder has some treatment, but comes back on.
Peeeeep! Suitably refreshed after a round of cuppas and half-time oranges, the teams trot back out for the second half and Gil Manzano gets us up and running. No changes at the break.
Real Madrid 2-0 Málaga: half-time summary
Real Madrid go into the break well on course for a return to winning ways, but Málaga haven't completely rolled over and had their tummies tickled at the Bernabéu. Indeed, the visitors could well have opened the scoring when Chory Castro drove against Keylor Navas' post, while Igancio Camacho flashed a header just wide later on in the half. However, the bulk of the clear-cut opportunities have gone to Real, with defender Sergio Ramos proving the only man capable of taking his - twice. Meanwhile, that apparent hamstring injury for Marcelo will be a real blow if it's confirmed.
Real Madrid 2-0 Málaga: first half
Peeeeep! That's our lot for the first 45.
Min 46 | Almost 3-0 to Real Madrid! Cristiano breaks, then holds it up and feeds the run of Benzema, who bursts into the box and looks to knock it back across goal to the Portuguese, only for Mikel Villanueva to divert it against his own post!
Min 45 | One minute to be added on.
Min 42 | Gooooooal! 2-0 to Real Madrid! Ramos again! Kroos sends the free-kick into the box, and the defender is there to stick out a leg and divert it in past Kameni!
MIn 41 | Nacho is down and in pain after being fouled by Rosales on the left. Kroos stands over the free-kick...
Min 38 | Now Lucas wins an almost mirror-image of a free-kick of fellow Madrid youth product Juankar, who is the second player shown a yellow this afternoon. Kroos swings it in, it's a free header for Ramos...but this time it's off target - and the flag was up anyway.
Min 36 | Casemiro is the first man into the book today, after a foul on Fornals that gives Recio the chance to swing it into the mixer. The less said about the midfielder's delivery the better, though.
Min 35 | Goooooal! Sergio Ramos heads Real Madrid in front! Lucas' cross is deflected behind, via a spinning bounce that almost makes a mug of Kameni. Kroos delivers the corner right onto the forehead of the Real captain, who bullets it into the top corner!
Min 33 | It looked like a pulled hammy for Marcelo. Given Real's only other out-and-out left-back is comedy's Fabio Coentrao, that ain't half bad news for Real.
Min 32 | Now it's Real's turn to win a corner, which Kameni flaps at a little but Málaga clear.
Min 30 | Uffff! Juanpi swings over a corner for Málaga, Ignacio Camacho meets it at the back post...and it creeps just wide of the opposite upright.
Min 27 | Talk about a vote of confidence for Danilo: he's the only recognised full-back on the bench, and he still can't get on. Lucas is at right-back now, with Nacho shifting over to the left.
Min 25 | Lucas gets it out of his feet and thumps it at goal, but Kameni saves! And Marcelo comes off for Isco, the Brazilian kicking the bench in anger and covering his face with his shirt. Benzema then controls on the edge of the box, but slaps his volley well wide.
Min 24 | Marcelo looks like he can't go on! He's limping very heavily with what appears to be some sort of muscle complaint. Isco is preparing to come on.
Min 22 | Lucas touches it back to Modric in space for a shot...but the Croat's first touch isn't what it usually is, and the moment is lost. He knocks it back to Vázquez, whose cross is gathered by Kameni.
Min 20 | The home crowd are restless. There were even a few whistles for Cristiano earlier. Which I'll never understand, by the way.
Min 18 | Castro has another crack - but it's straight at Navas. A minute later, Fornals has a go with a similar effort, but Keylor holds on again. Having carved out three clear chances, Real have now been put under for a couple of minutes.
Min 16 | Málaga hit the post! It's fed into Chory Castro just inside the penalty area, and the Uruguayan unleashes a ripsnorter that fizzes low towards Keylor's left - but bounces back off the woodwork! What a let-off for the hosts!
Min 15 | Unconvinced that backflicking it in was the best option available to Benzema. As Barry Davies would have said: that was not the time.
Min 14 | Another great chance for Real! That makes three - and all of them spurned! Lucas is again the provider, delivering from the right and meeting Benzema's run...but the striker tries to backheel it in and misses it completely!
Min 13 | Adalberto Peñaranda and Pablo Fornals look to create havoc on the right byline of the Real box...but Navas gathers.
Min 12 | Now an even better chance, and it falls to Cristiano! He's found by Toni Kroos' ball and is clean through on Kameni...but hits it straight at the Málaga keeper!
Min 12 | Chance for Benzema! Lucas crosses from the right, but the Frenchman - who has just one in his last six in LaLiga - heads it into the ground and over!
Min 11 | Hold your horses, now he has. He takes on Rosales, gets to the byline and crosses to the back stick, where Lucas controls and knocks it back in again towards Benzema, but Kameni gets a fist to it!
Min 10 | I'm not sure Cristiano has had a successful touch of the ball yet.
Min 8 | Lucas crosses, but it's cleared. It's worked out to Marcelo on the other wing, who crosses, but again it's cleared. Luka Modric then slips a lovely little ball into Lucas in the box - but he's offside, along with at least three Real colleagues.
Min 7 | Carlos Kameni is a lucky boy. The Málaga keeper just dallies a moment to long before clearing it, and Cristiano isn't all too far away from nicking it from the Cameroonian.
Min 5 | Rosales advances down the right wing and crosses, but it's meat and drink for the Real Madrid backline. The hosts then come forward, Lucas feeding Cristiano Ronaldo just inside the box. He tries to work a yard of space...but loses it.
Min 2 | One suspects Lucas will be extra motivated this afternoon: he it was who gave it away for Celta Vigo's winner on Wednesday.
Min 1 | Lucas Vázquez with the first forward incursion, scuttling forward down the right but hitting an attempted cross that is blocked and cleared.
Peeeeep! Mr Gil Manzano gets us up and running at the Bernabéu.
Two mins to kick-off | Hands are shaked, tracky tops are removed, team photos are taken, coin is tossed... You know the drill.
Three mins to kick-off | The teams are in the tunnel...and now out they come!
Five mins to kick-off | I had neglected to tell you the two teams' benches. They are... Real Madrid: Danilo, Casilla, Kovacic, Mariano, Asensio, Morata and Isco. Málaga: Boyko, Demichelis, M. Santos, Duda, Keko, Jony and Ontiveros.
Real Madrid - Málaga: confirmed line-ups
Real Madrid XI: Keylor Navas; Nacho, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Lucas Vázquez, Benzema, Cristiano
Málaga XI: Kameni; Rosales, Luis Muñoz, Mikel, Juankar; Camacho, Recio; Fornals, Juanpi, Chory Castro; Peñaranda.
Real Madrid - Málaga: latest news
16:02 | Goalkeeper Keylor Navas plays for the first time since being largely culpable for Sevilla's late winner last time out in LaLiga. It's fair to say the Costa Rican has struggled to recreate his form of last season, and this week our resident medical mind, Dr José González, looked at the question: What's up with Keylor?
16:00 | Quarter of an hour to go: once more for luck, here's our guide on how and where to watch Real Madrid against Málaga.
15:55 | The Málaga bench includes former Manchester City defender Martín Demichelis, who has returned for a second spell at La Rosaleda after a brief, inglorious stint at Espanyol.
15:50 | Is Zidane protecting Danilo by dropping him to the bench, or is he pointing the finger? Here's what the Frenchman had to say about his much-maligned right-back yesterday.
15:45 | Half an hour to kick-off - in search of some pre-match reading material? Here are the thoughts of AS editor Alfredo Relaño on Cristiano Ronaldo's patchy start to 2017.
15:42 | Málaga have shipped 18 away goals in LaLiga this season, fewer than only three other teams - Deportivo (19), Osasuna (20) and Granada (30, yes THIRTY). That's two a game even before they step out at the Bernabéu. Now that doesn't bode well, does it.
15:40 | If Real Madrid get the three points today, incidentally, they'll not only put a stop to a three-game winless run. They'll also be crowned 'winter champions' as LaLiga leaders at the halfway stage of the season, despite having played a game less than the rest.
15:37 | By the way, that's Peñaranda's first start for Málaga since joining on loan from Watford this month.
15:35 | 13th-placed Málaga have made three changes to the side that started last weekend's 2-0 defeat to Real Sociedad - their third in a row in the league - as Recio, Juanpi and Adalberto Peñaranda come into the team.
15:30 | Cristiano has been criticised for a couple of out-of-sorts displays, but - on paper, at least - Málaga provide a good opportunity for him to get back on track: he has 15 LaLiga goals against the Andalusians, more than any other player.
15:25 | Zizou's team also sees Cristiano Ronaldo - who failed to impress in a central role against Celta in midweek and at Sevilla on Sunday - back on the left of the attack, with Karim Benzema returning to the XI at centre-forward and Lucas Vázquez on the right. Midfielder Isco is back fit, but starts among the subs.
15:20 | Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has named his line-up, with Danilo left on the bench despite Dani Carvajal being out injured. Nacho Fernández is preferred to the Brazilian, who is spared an afternoon with the Bernabéu boo-boys.
15:10 | Málaga, who have lost two out of two since Marcelo 'Gato' Romero replaced Juande Ramos, are certainly not short on absentees. Sandro, Ricca, Kuzmanovic, Charles, Weligton and Miguel Torres are all injured, Kone and En-Nesyri are at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Diego Llorente can't play due to the terms of his loan deal from Real.
15:05 | On the other hand... The Boquerones' recent history against Real offers some cause for optimism, having held Los Blancos to draws in both their league meetings last term. Oh, and they also frustrated champions Barcelona in a goalless encounter at the Camp Nou earlier this campaign.
15:01 | Today's injury-ravaged visitors to the Bernabéu are winless since late November, have lost their last four in all competitions and have never beaten Real Madrid in the league Charmatín.
15:00 | Stats, eh. Depending on which way you look at them, Málaga are either prime fodder for a walloping and a return to winning ways for Real, or a banana-skin-in-the-making ready to extend Los Blancos' post-unbeaten run depression.
14:40 | The AS Oracle's winter slump continues - but has his (not so) trusty crystal ball come up with the goods ahead of Real Madrid-Málaga? His prediction for this game, and the rest of LaLiga's week 18 fixtures, is here.
14:20 | With just under two hours to go until kick-off, here's our spiffingly useful guide on all (OK, three) of the question words surrounding Real Madrid - Málaga: how, where, when...
13:25 | This afternoon's game will be officiated by Jesús Gil Manzano, who has overseen 14 Madrid games (11 wins, 1 draw and 2 defeats) and 12 featuring Málaga (4 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats).
12:55 | Isco is also expected to return to the starting line-up in a bid to stop Real's recent rot of two consecutive defeats.
12:20 | Danilo also has something to prove in the Bernabéu this afternoon after angrily reacting to being substituted against Celta Vigo in midweek.
11:25 | Cristiano Ronaldo comes under the spotlight this afternoon after his recent flat performances. However, Zidane was standing by his man in his pre-match press conference, pointing out that the Portuguese striker will be criticsed whatever he does.
Real Madrid – Málaga: match preview
Málaga have chosen a bad time to visit the Santiago Bernabéu, or possibly the reverse. Will they come up against a Real Madrid side still reeling from two consecutive defeats after Zidane’s side had etched their name in the record books with a 40 game unbeaten run? By the same token it’s quite possible that faced with the adversity of the losses, Zidane’s men in white will be aiming to bounce back and use the visit of Málaga as a manner to reestablish the status quo at the top of LaLiga.
A tricky return Copa del Rey leg lies ahead for Madrid as they travel midweek to Vigo to attempt to turn around the 2-1 in the first leg and a convincing performance over the men for the Costa del Sol would be the perfect tonic for Zinedine Zidane aiming to keep the treble dream alive at the Bernabeu.
Málaga heve yet to record a win on the road during the 2016/17 campaign and the side have yet to hit their stride under new coach “Gato” Romero after Juande Ramos’ surprise decision to leave the LaLiga side back in December.
Zero wins in seven coupled with Málaga’s record at the Bernabeu is also cause for optimism among the Madrid faithful with the Andalusian side yet to record a victory in 34 visits to Chamartin which has prompted the bookmakers to offer odds of 20/1 for a (“2”/away win) on the weekly Quinela (Spanish pools) coupon.
The Real Madrid sick-bay is starting to reach capacity after Dani Carvajal was the latest player to suffer injury and will miss approximately a month following a midweek hamstring tear. The defender joins other absentees: James, Bale and Pepe with Zidane still to decide who will pair Sergio Ramos in the central defender role with Varane and Nacho the two options. Benzema is cited to return to a supporting role with Cristiano in attack with Isco, Modric and Kroos playing in central roles with Casemiro in the anchor position.
In his pre-match press conference, Real Madrid coach Zidane confirmed that recent defeats have not affected the mindset at the club: "Nothing’s fallen apart. It’s true that we have lost two games in a row, the two teams that beat us put us in difficulties, and are very good. But that’s no excuse. What we have to do is keep going. Now is a good time to lose these two games. I would have liked to keep winning but it was a good time to lose...Now we’ll regain confidence and continue.”
Three consecutive defeats and no wins in seven are not a results pattern that would install confidence in a side about to embark on an away tie at the Bernabeu but the Costa del Sol will look at their performance in the respective fixture in the 2015/16 campaign where a ‘backs to the wall’ heroics coupled with an inspired evening from Carlos Kameni in the Málaga goal were enough to secure a point for the Andalusian outfit.
Romero is buoyed with the news that Keko is back in the squad as Málaga also announced this week the loan acquisition of veteran Argentine defender Matin Dimichelos back for his second spell at the club.
The side will be buoyed by the presence of 800 Malaguistas in the top tier of the north stand along with the presence of club owner Abdullah Al-Thani in the VIP area making a rarer appearance at an away game.
In his pre-match analysis, Málaga coach Romero stated his side would go to the Bernabeu with no fear: “We’ll try our best to stand up to them. Circumstances may mean we’ll have to focus more at the back, as they have top quality individual players. We’ll have to watch out in regards to shots at the target or one-on-ones. We’ll seek out our opportunities. We have pacey, talented players, and at any moment we’ll have possibilities”.
Real Madrid - Málaga: possible starting line-ups
Real Madrid XI: Keylor, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Danilo, Casemiro, Modric, Kroos, Isco, Cristiano, Benzema.
Málaga XI: Kameni, Rosales, Muñoz, Vilanueva, Juankar, Recio, Camacho, Fornals, Juanpi, Castro, Santos.