It was always destined to be. In a Real Madrid team with some notable absentees, Isco stepped up to deliver what proved to be a match-winning performance with a goal and an assist on his return to his former club on Sunday night.
With Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric all rested in the wake of their midweek Champions League exertions, the burden of responsibility fell on the Spaniard and he duly delivered. He was greeted at the start of the game by cheers from the home supporters in front of whom he first made his name.
Isco was at the centre of everything for the away side, particularly in the first half. He created a good chance for Lucas Vázquez after a clever dinked through-ball which the winger failed to convert.
Isco then had three chances of his own in quick succession. The first was a sublime freekick which was the game’s opening goal. From roughly 25-yards out Isco left Roberto with no chance and he received the warm applause of the Malaga and Madrid fans alike.
The Spaniard then almost doubled his tally when he cut in from the left onto his stronger foot after a neat one-two with Marco Asensio but could only shoot wide. His third effort was another long-range effort but this time Roberto made a comfortable save from a volley from the edge of the box.
However, it was not all one-way traffic and Malaga had a flurry of chances towards the end of the half in their pursuit of an equaliser. It started after clever interplay between the Uruguayan pair of Federico Ricca and Diego Rolan ended with a dangerous cross across the six-yard box from the full-back but none of his teammates could get on the end of it.
The best chance of the game then fell to Manuel Iturra when he nipped in front of a careless Casemiro to put himself though on goal but the midfielder failed to score after a smart save from Keylor Navas. The home side managed to keep the ball alive and Roberto Rosales’ shot was deflected over for a corner. From it, Ignasi Miquel had a chance of his own after getting on the end of a knock down from Ricca but failed to get his effort on target.
In the second half the home side continued their hunt for a goal and manager José González made an attacking substitution after 52 minutes when he replaced midfielder Mehdi Lacen with forward Alberto Bueno. Bueno was instantly involved and just two minutes after coming on was on the end of a freekick from Chory Castro but the forward failed to get enough on his header to trouble Navas.
In spite of this attacking intent it didn’t take long for the away side to double their lead. It was a great team goal after 63 minutes with Isco, needless to say, at the heart of it. Isco had the opportunity to grab his second goal of the game after being put through on goal by Karim Benzema but the selfless Spaniard instead decided to tee up Casemiro for a simple tap-in.
Isco then left to a standing ovation from the home crowd after being substituted after 71 minutes.
Malaga continued to push and grabbed the consolation goal that their spirited performance deserved with Rolan converting with the last kick of the game. His persistence paid off, capitalising after Jesús Vallejo miskicked Ricca’s cross from the left to smash the ball into the roof of the net.
With the win Real Madrid leapfrog Valencia into third place while Malaga remain bottom, 14 points from safety.