LA LIGA | REAL MADRID 3 - 1 MALAGA
Madrid secure another costly win
Ancelotti’s team beat Malaga in a tough game and lost both Bale and Modric to injury. Ramos, James and Cristiano scored while Juanmi pegged one back for the visitors.
The afternoon started badly for Madrid and could have ended even worse if not for James Rodriguez. The Colombian was not only the best player on the pitch; he also scored the game’s most important goal. The signs weren’t great. Bale went off injured after a few minutes, followed by Modric around the hour mark. Cristiano missed a penalty shortly after. Such a bad sequence of events could only mean one thing: a large-scale catastrophe like a draw, or even a volcanic eruption in the middle of Bernabeu.
Once again, things started terribly for Madrid. When the players took to the field they knew full well that Barça and Atlético had won. Knowing that must have affected them in some way, though they’d probably deny it. Winning wouldn’t bring them a grand prize. Now it was simply an obligation, something as normal and as expected as respecting the rules of the road.
This early disappointment was compounded by Bale’s injury. Not two minutes had passed when the Welshman fell to the ground and signalled to the dugout that he’d injured his left calf. He limped off slowly and uncomfortably to be replaced by Chicharito.
I imagine that every player in white thought of the consequences of the injury, the change in formation and next Wednesday’s game against Atleti. I imagine that Ancelotti had similar thoughts. Once again, however, events have played out and made decisions for him. Now there’s no doubt: 4-4-2 will be the formation for the foreseeable future.
Malaga took advantage of the distraction to push on. Unlike other away teams, the visitors’ counter-attacks regularly ended up in the Madrid box. There are few forward lines in this league as dynamic as theirs and few players like Amrabat, a free spirit who is capable of so much and full of so much self belief.
Sergio Ramos broke the deadlock. The centre-back (who must have been either a striker or a central midfielder in a previous life) connected with Cristiano’s free kick. The Malaga players appealed for offside. The television replays were inconclusive.
However, nothing much changed. The game continued at the same break-neck speed, dangerous and out of control. Madrid only seemed comfortable when the ball was at James’ feet. Amidst all this, Chicharito also displayed his typical enthusiasm to get stuck in. Cristiano showed flashes. Not much else.
It seemed as if only James recognised the danger that Madrid were in. Malaga continued to push forward and the league was hanging by a threat. First he drew a penalty, which Cristiano missed, before scoring a wonderful left-footed shot after a couple of elegant one-twos.
Malaga didn’t give up. Juanmi pegged one back and Madrid looked wobbly at the back, pressured both by the opponent and by their own chaos. Nobody in Bernabeu could relax until Cristiano scored the third (his 39th in the league) after a low cross from Chicharito.