Sunday, at La Rosaleda Stadium in Malaga, Spain, Cristiano Ronaldo headed in the La Liga match’s opening goal at the 33rd minute while in an off-sides position, as visiting Real Madrid took a first half lead against hosts Malaga CF. Unfortunately for Real, three minutes later, Ronaldo would miss a penalty when he struck the ball weakly and to the right side of goal and Malaga’s Cameroonian keeper, Idriss Carlos Kameni, guessed correctly and stopped the shot.
Thirty-three minutes later, at the 66th, Malaga’s Raul Albentosa slammed the ball in when a cross made it clean through the Real defense to the opposite side of the box where the defender had all day to score. The result would eventually stand and the draw would allow Barcelona to pull nine points ahead of their archrivals with thirteen games to play. Even though there is a Clasico still to be played this year, it will be at the Camp Nou and Real will be hard pressed to match Barcelona’s milestone win at the Bernabeu. In any case, the odds of the Catalans dropping nine points seem slim.
Once again, Real, with a multitude of key players suspended or injured—among them Raphael Varane, suspended and Pepe, Karim Benzema, and Gareth Bale injured—and with a starting line-up still not etched in stone, were hard pressed to find any sustainable rhythm. The 76th minute entrance of James Rodriquez did infuse the team with added energy and two clear goal-scoring chances, but the late addition to the line-up begged the obvious question: why bring him in at the 76th when Real was struggling the whole match and were at 1-1 for at full ten minutes prior to his entrance?
At times, truth be told, Real was outplayed by Malaga who were unlucky to face a Keylor Navas in superb form. His many spectacular saves—diving backwards to flick a header over the bar, or sliding on three close in shots to deflect them out of bounds, or coming out to defeat two one-on-ones that should have put the hosts ahead—made for a closer match.
But the bigger story in this game, unfortunately, was the officiating of referee Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva, Assistant Referee 1, Alfonso Costoya Rodríguez, Assistant Referee 2, Enrique José Ramos Ferreiros, and Fourth Official, Vicente Gil Coscolla. The officiating team began trying to control emotions giving out an early yellow, at the second minute of the match, but then forgetting to keep control, despite handing out seven yellows by game’s end.
The game was ugly, tough, and unsportsmanlike from the opening whistle, and the emotions for the hosts—team and fans—seemed out of proportion to what they had at stake. Madrid, surprised by the intensity of the opposition, suffered many an early foul before retaliating in kind for the remainder of the game. But the visitors were unlucky to have the referees miss the many fouls on Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Marcelo, and Jese, several of which could have been called penalties, many of which were openly purposeful attempts to incite retaliatory actions.
Of particular concern were the many fouls CR7 suffered away from the action which included some drag downs, an elbow to the stomach and another to the chest when the striker was in the box and the ball out on the wings. Similarly, Modric’s trip in the box came toward the waning moments of the match and could have been decisive.
Curiously, Malaga, with only one point earned and sitting safely in 10th place on the table, seemed overly content with their achievement, an objective the fans made clear in their farewell send off to Madrid’s players at game’s end. The Malaga song had but a single line:“Say goodbye to La Liga.”