|Malaga defeated Real Madrid. Santa Cruz was the hero.|
Real Madrid ended the year with a match of the ‘Champions’. Two of the sixteen teams that will play in the second round of the Champions League in 2013 faced off at the La Rosaleda. The match did not disappoint. The start was promising for the visiting side, who came close to going ahead from a free kick taken by Cristiano Ronaldo. Only the reflexes of Caballero prevented the goal. It was the only shot on goal in the first twenty minutes of the match, but we were not witnessing a boring match. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
The match was played at a frenetic pace and provided chances for both teams. In one of the chances, Real Madrid put the home side’s goal under pressure. A counter attack started by Xabi Alonso, which was continued by Di Maria and the Argentine’s pass was met by Cristiano Ronaldo, who was prevented from scoring in the twenty-fifth minute by the post. A minute later, the players exchanged roles. The Portuguese crossed with his left foot and the Argentine international controlled the ball and tried to chip his fellow countryman, but the attempt was cleared off the line by Monreal. In two minutes, despite not having scored, the Whites had demonstrated their tremendous attacking ability. From this moment on, the match changed.
Real Madrid took complete control of the clash. Malaga fell back and tried to relieve themselves of the pressure from the Whites, who wanted to reach half time with an advantage on the score board. Cristiano Ronaldo attempted to score in the thirty-sixth minute, once again from a pass by Di Maria, but his volley went weakly to the hands of Caballero. Another shot by the Portuguese from 25 metres in the forty-third minute, which went over the bar, and a header by Pepe from a corner kick in added time were the last two chances of the first half. All would be decided in the second half, which promised to be a spectacle after what had been witnessed up until that point.
The second half could not have got off to a worse start. Only four minutes had been played when Malaga scored. Joaquin received the ball at the far post and passed the ball to Isco, who beat Adán with an accurate shot from the penalty arc, which was the home side’s second shot on goal. Everything was going against them, but this was not a new experience for the Whites, who had demonstrated their ability to react and overturn the scoreboard in the last two matches in the championship.
Mourinho was once again courageous and brought on Callejon for Arbeloa in the fifty-eighth minute. More attacking power in search of the victory. The second substitution came six minutes later. Kaka came on, replacing Di Maria. The Portuguese coach’s intentions were on show in just under two minutes. A messy move in the area, which ended at the feet of Benzema. The Frenchman shot on the turn and Sergio Sanchez changed the flight of the ball and beat his goalkeeper in the sixty-sixth minute. 1-1 and all to play for with 25 minutes of the match left.
Real Madrid expanded their play and when the visiting sides’ winning goal appeared to be close, Malaga once again went ahead. They did so twice, both goals scored by Santa Cruz, who had replaced Saviola beforehand. The first goal arrived after making the most of a backheel in the goalmouth by Joaquin in the seventy-sixth minute. He surprised Adán for his team’s last goal with an accurate shot with his left foot. The Whites, despite not having any luck in front of goal, did not give up and reduced the deficit in the eighty-third minute. Özil stole the ball and Benzema beat Caballero. 3-2 and eight minutes of the clash remained. It was not enough. The Whites tried until the end and deserved more at La Rosaleda.
Stradium: La Rosaleda
Goals: 1-0, M.49: Isco. 1-1, M. 66: Sergio Sanchez (o.g.). 2-1, M. 72: Santa Cruz. 3-1, M. 76: Santa Cruz. 3-2, M. 82: Benzema.