Isco stars as Real down Malaga
MADRID: Real Madrid midfielder Isco made up for the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo by guiding his heavily-rotated side to a 2-1 win at basement club Malaga on Sunday which lifted them above Valencia and up to third in La Liga.
Isco curled in a fizzing free kick to break the deadlock in the 29th minute but refrained from celebrating against his hometown club.
The Spain international then provided the final pass of an exquisite team move for Casemiro to tap in the second goal in the 63rd.
Malaga striker Diego Rolan scored down the other end in the final minute of stoppage time after controlling the ball with his hand but there was no time left for the league’s lowest-ranked club to try to add to their goal.
Real had clinched last season’s Liga title on their last trip to Malaga. However, coach Zinedine Zidane used this visit to rest many players after Wednesday’s energy-sapping Champions League quarter-final second leg with Juventus, which his side lost 3-1 though they advanced to the semi-finals 4-3 on aggregate.
The Frenchman left top scorer Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Raphael Varane at home and put Marcelo and Toni Kroos on the bench.
There were rare starts for defenders Jesus Vallejo and Theo Hernandez while fringe players Borja Mayoral and Dani Ceballos came on in the second half.
Isco was given a standing ovation from his former club’s fans when he left the pitch for the substitutes’ bench.
“He deserved it, he was important for Malaga and now he’s important for Madrid,” Zidane told reporters. “We played very well. It’s not easy to play against a team like Malaga who don’t deserve to be where they are in the table. We approached the game seriously and we respected our opponents. We did a good job.”
Real play again in the league on Wednesday at home to Athletic Bilbao before their Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich on April 25.