Real Madrid 3-2 Malaga: 3 talking points
Before the game, Real Madrid was, surprisingly, ten points behind rampant Barcelona in the La Liga standings. The defending Spanish champions desperately needed a win.
The odds were in their favour, as Los Blancos have only lost one game against Malaga in La Liga history. Their opponents had also not won at the Bernabéu in past 16 visits.
Real Madrid eventually ran out 3-2 winners. In a very tight affair, goals from Casemiro, Karim Benzema & Cristiano Ronaldo proved enough to give Los Blancos all three points.
Here are the game's three main talking points.
Jesus Vallejo makes a rare appearance
Prior to Saturday, Vallejo had only played one league game this season. Although he's appeared in the Copa Del Rey, with defenders such as Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane in Madrid's squad, it’s been hard for the youngster to make a permanent mark. With both Ramos and Nacho Fernandez unavailable, though, it was Vallejo’s opportunity to shine against Malaga.
Despite defensive midfielder Casemiro leaving him exposed on numerous occasions, Vallejo rose to the occasion. The Spaniard made 39 passes, won 100% of his tackles, and made three clearances and interceptions. It was a very assured performance.
Kiko Casilla falters, again
Real Madrid has all the attacking power it could hope for, but with a sub-par goalkeeper, points will needlessly be dropped during a season. With each game that passes, Kiko Casilla shows the footballing public why Keylor Navas is the undisputed no.1 at the Bernabéu.
Malaga’s first goal, scored by Diego Rolan, was a good finish. However, better anticipation from Casilla could have prevented the damage. He can be forgiven for that one. Conceding the second goal was inexcusable, though. Gonzalo Castro's near 30-yard strike somehow bounced its way past the 31-year-old goalkeeper. It wasn’t well-hit, nor did it swerve. It was a simple bouncing shot with little power, yet somehow Casilla turned a harmless situation into a calamity.
Unsurprisingly, the Spaniard has only kept three clean sheets this campaign.
Cristiano Ronaldo scores...finally!
Much has been made recently about Cristiano Ronaldo’s poor goalscoring form. He put some of his woes to bed against Malaga, however. After missing a penalty, the 32-year-old pounced to score only his second La Liga goal this campaign. It proved the game's decisive moment, leaving Ronaldo in a familiar position: the matchwinner.
Although many believe Ronaldo is just a limited poacher, his stats suggest he was involved in all phases of play on Saturday. He touched the ball 49 times, won three aerial duels, completed 26 passes and also scored.
The four-time Ballon'd'Or winner's goal has helped him get back on track, but it only temporarily papers over his worrying form. Cristiano Ronaldo still must regain top form on a regular basis.