Caballero frustrated Ronaldo with a string of saves including an unorthodox stop at the back post.
Bernd Schuster’s return to the Bernabéu on Saturday failed to produce anything more than a routine 2-0 victory for Real Madrid, leaving Malaga’s season stalling in 13th place in La Liga.
The German had been manager for ‘Los Blancos’ for just over a year before relations broke down between himself and the board. Any hope that Schuster could return to haunt his former employers was extinguished by a dominant Real performance.
Although the nature of Real Madrid’s goals was somewhat fortuitous, it was nothing more than they deserved with Malaga overwhelmed by the force of Madrid’s multi-million euro lineup. Incredibly, the game was still within Malaga’s reach up until the 91st minute when Ronaldo dispatched a penalty to make it 2-0.
Malaga, however, went into the break with the score still at 0-0. The tactic of trying to see out the storm at the Bernabéu is usually one that produces little success but for the first-half Madrid were just about kept at bay. Saturday afternoon’s storm was orchestrated by the relentless Cristiano Ronaldo, who in the first-half was testing Malaga’s defence to its limit.
The Portuguese star first hit the bar with a thunderous strike that left Caballero for the first time that afternoon a hopeless bystander, before then dragging a shot just wide and forcing the Malaga goalkeeper into a smart stop to his right.
In-between Ronaldo’s efforts, Morato had the ball in the back of the net after converting an Ángel Di María cross but the Madrid-born striker was a couple of yards offside. Malaga’s only notable attempt in the first half fell to the recalled Eliseu who lashed a bending half-volley wide of the post.
Madrid attacks intensify
Any game plan decided upon in the Malaga dressing room during half-time soon became irrelevant as Madrid finally made the breakthrough just a minute after the restart. Di María swung in a cross from just over midway through Malaga’s half with Ronaldo being the intended recipient. The stretching Ronaldo failed to get a touch on the ball leaving Caballero deceived by the striker’s attempt and out of position. Without a touch from either striker or defender, the cross continued its original path, bouncing past Caballero and into the far corner of the goal.
It was only following the breakthrough that the waves of Madrid attacks intensified as they searched for a goal to kill off the tie.
Real had two more goals disallowed for offside following the opener with Sami Khedira and the increasingly-frustrated Ronaldo the culprits. If it wasn’t the offside flag, it was Caballero who kept the score down, unorthodoxly star-jumping to keep out an effort by Ronaldo at the back post and stretching down to his right to stop a shot from Di María.
100 million euro signing Bale was introduced with 15 minutes to go and won the penalty that would conclusively see off any late Malaga threat. Jostling Malaga centre-back Weligton, Bale appeared to lose his footing, going down in the box. Despite the seemingly self-inflicted nature of the fall, referee Ayza Gámez controversly pointed to the spot. Ronaldo converted the penalty, almost appearing embarrassed in his celebrations that it had taken him that long and a penalty to score.
Schuster was left frustrated by the second consecutive loss that leaves Malaga just two points above the relegation zone. “We were missing a lot, we hoped to attack more. It was too easy for them,” he said of his side’s failure to penetrate Madrid’s defence. The defeat, although not unexpected, now puts extra emphasis on Malaga’s home game against second-bottom Celta Vigo which looks to be essential in stabilising Malaga’s wavering season.