Playing without a fully healthy Iker Casillas for the first time in a decade, Real Madrid looked listless throughout the match and fell to Malaga, 3-2, on Saturday.
News of Casillas' benching came just around an hour from the opening pitch. It was the first time in 10 years that Los Blancos' legendary goalkeeper would not be in net due to technical reasons.
Well, to put it mildly, it showed—especially in the second half.
The first 45 minutes of the match were actually a relatively mundane affair. Madrid mostly dominated possession and had plenty of opportunities inside on the attack, but Malaga's defense did an expert job of blocking shots.
A mere two of Los Blancos' shots went on goal in the first half, as the teams went into the break in a scoreless tie.
Unfortunately for Real Madrid, things did not stay scoreless for long. Almost from the opening pitch of the second half, Malaga came out firing with a shockingly aggressive attack. With the Madrid defenders struggling with their form throughout the match, Malaga's attackers soon found their way into the box.
The team's first goal came just four minutes after the halftime break, as Isco found the back of the net on a scintillating strike. That goal led Shaun Thompson of The People's Person to exclaim the worldwide love for Isco:
There's nobody on the planet who doesn't love Isco.— Shaun Thompson (@TeamToDieFor) December 22, 2012
It didn't take long for Real Madrid to fire back, though—kind of. Madrid tied the score in the 66th minute, but it wasn't by one of their players. Malaga defender Sergio Santos sent an own goal into the back of his net, giving Los Blancos hope.
However, that hope would end almost from the minute Roque Santa Cruz entered the game in the 65th minute. Following the own goal, Santa Cruz came out firing. He scored two goals in the span of four minutes starting in the 72nd to put Malaga ahead 3-1 and essentially put the game away.
Karim Benzema chalked one in for Real Madrid in the 82nd minute, but the damage was done. The win for Malaga puts them a mere two points behind Madrid in the table and should bring them joy in a time of financial turmoil for the club.
Isco, Malaga: A
Continually brilliant, Isco continues to see his stock rise as we near the transfer window. His goal in the 49th minute makes him wholly deserving of the "A" distinction, but it's his all-around brilliance that's truly remarkable.
With Malaga's financial woes rearing their ugly head, this may be one of the final times Los Boquerones will see him in uniform.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid: C
As always, the scintillating forward was at peak aggressiveness on Saturday. Ronaldo took six shots, but only one of them went on goal, as he seemed to be struggling to find his form throughout the match.
It didn't help that he drew a yellow card, either.
Roque Santa Cruz, Malaga: A
Talk about making the most of your opportunity. Santa Cruz's first goal came only seven minutes after he entered the match and the second came just four minutes later. It was the veteran forward's fifth goal of the season, most among Malaga reserves, and third against Real Madrid.
That has to leave Paraguayan folks out there wishing he'd do this for the national team.
Antonio Adan, Real Madrid: D
Obviously, it wasn't all Adan's fault. The defense wasn't in fine form and allowed far too many opportunities for Malaga's strikers—especially down the stretch.
Still, let's just say there won't be too many people calling for a permanent replacement after Saturday's match. Mr. Casillas, your job is safe.
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