Malaga fell to a fourth league consecutive defeat on Saturday afternoon as they took on league leaders Real Madrid at the Bernabéu. Few could fault their effort in a game in which they had chances of coming away with at least a point and could feel aggrieved by some questionable officiating.
Adalberto Peñaranda made his full debut up front as he stepped in for injured top scorer Sandro Ramírez, who will be out until March with a hamstring injury. There was also a second consecutive start at the back for Luis Muñoz with Marcelo Romero keeping faith in the 19-year-old despite the signing of Martín Demichelis earlier in the week.
Real Madrid, at full strength, quickly settled into their usual rhythm and Cristiano Ronaldo proved a thorn in the side of Carlos Kameni in the opening exchanges, first raising question marks over his footwork when the Portuguese closed him down, then sent scrambling across his goalline by a deep cross to Lucas Vázquez who ought to have done better with his cross-cum-shot.
The first clear chance of the game fell to Karim Benzema after just ten minutes, but the Frenchman fluffed his lines, getting too much power on his downward header which bounced over the bar.
Just three minutes later, Ronaldo was sent clean through by a wonderful through pass by Toni Kroos but the Cameroonian stopper was equal to the final shot, which didn't live up to the build-up.
The visitors' first sighter came after 15 minutes when Chory Castro turned neatly on the edge of the box before firing his right-footed shot off the base of the far post with Keylor Navas beaten all ends up.
Not fazed, Malaga started to grow into the game with Chory coming closer, this time stinging Navas' palms at his near post.
Pablo Fornals tried his luck from a similar position, but his shot lost all its power by the time it reached the goal.
The home side had their fair share of chances, but the feeling inside the Bernabéu was that Malaga would not be broken down easily.
In fact, it took something special to break the deadlock as Sergio Ramos leapt highest in the 35th minute to loop an unstoppable header beyond the reach of Kameni, into the top corner.
Set pieces would prove to be Malaga's undoing on the day; minutes later Ramos had the ball in the back of the net once more, heading in Kroos' freekick from the right, only to be flagged offside.
Kroos had certainly found his range and picked out Ramos once more, this time from the left-hand side. The defender slid to prod the ball past Kameni to double his side's lead, but replays showed that he was clearly in an offside position (by around the same margin he was beyond the last line for the goal that was chalked off).
Romero's side felt hard done-by going into the break but refused to throw in the towel having enjoyed some promising moments in an action-packed first 45. The Blue and Whites got their just rewards in the 63rd minute after Navas blocked Juankar's low shot at the near post before the ball fell to Juanpi, who kept his composure to control the ball and loft it beyond the scrambling defenders on the goalline.
Chory almost found the equaliser, again attacking down the left, but Navas palmed his shot across goal out for a corner.
Malaga continued to press but Real's game management limited them to speculative efforts. The nearest either side came to a goal during the remaining half an hour was when Kameni allowed a Luis backpass to roll through his legs before scrambling it off the line and blocking Ronaldo's follow-up.
It was a greatly improved performance from Malaga, but the form table reads just one point from the last available 15. They sit 14th in the table and take on bottom side Osasuna on Friday evening.