April 15 (UPI) — Real Madrid slipped by Malaga 2-1 — without the help of Cristiano Ronaldo — Sunday at La Rosaleda Stadium in Malaga, Spain.
The Portuguese superstar was just one of several star players resting for the La Liga power. Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Raphael Varane were also absent from the pitch.
Madrid got the scoring started in the 29th minute off of the boot of Isco. The midfielder spotted the ball about five yards outside of the box for a free kick. A 15-man wall blocked Isco’s ability to see the goal before the attempt.
He proceeded to strike the ball with his right foot, bending the kick from right to left and beating a diving Roberto Jimenez Gago to his right.
“I’m pleased with his performance and his goal,” Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane told reporters. “It’s his home and he had a great game. I’m thrilled for him and for the team. This is where he grew up and he deserved that kind of reception. He’s been an important player for Málaga and today he’s crucial for Real Madrid.”
Madrid pocketed that lead through halftime before getting some insurance in the 63rd minute. Karim Benzema dribbled into the box on that play, drawing two defenders. Casemiro ran behind his teammate, while the defenders were distracted. Benzema then fired a pass to Isco, who hit Casemiro at the back post. Casemiro easily finished a shot past the Malaga keeper for a 2-0 advantage.
“We knew that playing here was difficult because of the situation Málaga find themselves in in the league,” Casemiro said, according to RealMadrid.com. “We played well and had full control of the game. Maybe we took our foot off of the gas a bit at the end and we could have maybe gone home with a clean sheet. It’s three more points and we must keep picking up more.”
Keylor Navas surrendered his only goal in the third minute of stoppage time. Diego Rolan got that score after Federico Ricca Rostagnol bent in a long service. The ball coasted over the defense and eventually found Rolan, who was able to get just enough on the ball to bring it down, before burying it upper 90 to his left.
Sunday’s victory gave Zidane win No. 100 as coach of Real Madrid.
Madrid battles Athletic Bilbao at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain.