Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale scored to give Real Madrid a 2-1 win at Malaga on Saturday, as the La Liga leaders set a club record with a 16th consecutive victory in all competitions.
Although Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score for the first time in 12 league matches this season, he set up both Benzema’s 18th-minute opener and Bale’s goal in the 83rd.
Roque Santa Cruz headed in Malaga’s goal in stoppage-time after Real’s Isco was sent off with his second booking in the 86th.
Los Blancos were denied a wider winning margin by Malaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, who saved close-range shots by Ronaldo, Bale and Isco.
Counterpart Iker Casillas had a shaky showing throughout, spilling three shots that came close to costing the UEFA Champions League holders dearly.
With the win, Real opened up a five-point lead over Barcelona before the Catalan club visited Valencia yesterday.
Benzema put the visitors in front by redirecting Ronaldo’s cross after the Ballon d’Or holder used a step-over dribble to open up a passing angle from the wing.
Casillas let Sergi Darder’s shot fall between his legs and hit the post in the 23rd before Duda sent his free-kick off the bar in the 43rd in the hosts’ best opportunities until their final push.
Kameni reserved the best of several saves for the 76th minute, when a defensive gaff let the ball roll to the unmarked Ronaldo, but the former RCD Espanyol goalie anticipated his point-blank try.
“With a little bit of luck we could have gotten more from this game,” Kameni said.
However, he could do nothing to stop Bale’s dipping strike after Ronaldo deftly headed the ball on to meet the Welshman’s run, as Malaga’s first home loss of the season left them in sixth place.
Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao midfielder Benat Etxebarria set up one goal before scoring to secure a 2-1 win at Getafe, while Espanyol fought back for a 2-1 win over visitors Levante UD under heavy rain for their first win in six games.
Etxebarria found Mikel San Jose to glance in his corner-kick in the 36th. He then curled a free-kick inside the post for Bilbao’s second goal in the 90th, before Angel Lafita added suspense to stoppage-time with a goal seconds later.
Ninth-placed Bilbao continued their turnaround following a poor start to the season by extending their unbeaten run to six rounds.
In Barcelona, Levante’s Jose Morales tapped in a rebound for the 12th-minute opener, but Felipe Caicedo equalized off the post for the hosts in the 19th before Sergio Garcia hit from long distance.
Espanyol rose to 10th place, just ahead of Getafe. Both provisionally rested four points above the relegation zone. Levante were left two points above the drop zone ahead of yesterday’s games.
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