Real Madrid Vs. Malaga, 2012 La Liga: Santi Cazorla Hits Stunning Equalizer

Real Madrid led for 55 minutes, but Malaga have walked away from the Santiago Bernabeu with a point that will be invaluable in the race for fourth place in La Liga. Malaga played excellent football throughout the match, but their inability to play a good final ball and their complete inability to finish on the rare occasion that opportunity presented itself were telling. Madrid netted first and looked like they were going to hold on, but they were undone by a spectacular Santi Cazorla free kick at the death, and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

For Malaga, the game was a microcosm for their season, besides the fact that they actually ended up with a decent road result. Between the penalty areas, they were as good as Madrid, if not slightly better. Their midfield had a magnificent match and their 53 percent possession at the Bernabeu is, in this case, a stat that does not lie and that does tell us a lot about what happened.

Their finishing and marking was poor, however, with Solomon Rondon and Joris Mathijsen in particular having very poor games. In the 35th minute, after a great spell for Malaga and a number of bad touches by Rondon in the final third, Karim Benzema headed in a cross by Cristiano Ronaldo, losing Mathijsen at the back post in the process.

Madrid squandered opportunities for the rest of the match while Willy made a couple of very solid saves. Their one goal appeared to be enough for Madrid, who truly underperformed on the day, but Cazorla went on to grab a goal that many will say produced a result that was just and a better reflection of the play than a Madrid win.

The goal came on a free kick, from 25 yards out, in stoppage time. Cazorla struck a curler with his left foot to the back post, lifting it over the wall with a perfect spin that caused the ball to dip just barely under the crossbar of Iker Casillas. Even a keeper as good as St. Iker didn't have a chance in the world to make a save.

Madrid's lead in La Liga is now down to eight points, a gap that still seems like one that's too large for Barcelona to bridge. Malaga are in fifth place in La Liga, behind Levante in goal differential by one. Most importantly, they are four points ahead of Athletic Bilbao and five points ahead of Atletico Madrid. Sevilla is eight points back of Malaga and Levante.

For more on Los Merengues, head over to Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid.

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