|Isco guides Real past Malaga; Atletico down Levante| MADRID, April 16: Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale were both rested and Real Madrid hardly broke sweat as they beat Malaga 2-1 on Sunday to climb to third in La Liga.
Real Madrid’s Isco scores from a free kick during the La Liga match against Malaga at La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga.
Isco scored one and set up another at La Rosaleda in a comfortable victory for a much-changed Real side, following Wednesday’s last-gasp Champions League win over Juventus.
Diego Rolan grabbed a consolation for Malaga with the last kick of the game but the result was never in doubt.
“Today I can be happy with a job well done,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane said.
As well as Bale and Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Raphael Varane were left out, with the all-important Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich looming next week.
But Isco did his chances of a start in Germany no harm at all by bending in a free-kick that both Ronaldo and Bale would have been proud of, and then generously teeing up Casemiro when he might easily have finished himself.
After scoring his first Real goal in nine appearances against his former club, Isco held his hands up apologetically, and he enjoyed a warm reception from the Malaga fans when substituted in the second half.
“He has always been important, despite what everyone thinks,” Zidane said of Isco. “He is important, even if sometimes you think I have something else in my head.”
Victory means Los Blancos leapfrog Valencia, who were beaten by Barcelona on Saturday, but remain four points behind Atletico Madrid in second.
Malaga, meanwhile, stay bottom and are all-but doomed, sitting 14 points behind 17th-placed Levante, who had earlier been beaten 3-0 by Atletico.
Fernando Torres stole the show at the Wanda Metropolitano, marking the announcement of his Atletico departure with his 100th La Liga goal off the bench.
Six days after confirming he will be leaving his boyhood club at the end of the season, Torres rolled back the years with a volleyed finish, reminiscent of the 34-year-old in his prime.
“Fernando is an icon here,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.
“Whether he is scoring goals or not, winning titles or not, he has a place in the club that has been earned by respect, hard work and having an identity with the club. That will not change because of one more goal.”
Torres’ grievance this term has been a lack of playing time and he was a substitute again, replacing Antoine Griezmann, who was also on target. Angel Correa opened the scoring in the first half.
A comfortable victory cuts the gap behind leaders Barcelona back to 11 points and restores some momentum for Atletico, with their Europa League semifinal against Arsenal less than a fortnight away.
The result also guarantees Simeone’s side a place in the Champions League for a sixth consecutive season.
“Barcelona’s season is tremendous,” Simeone said. “We will try to get closer to them and if we can’t get closer, we will congratulate them.”
Atletico now face Real Sociedad on Thursday and Real Betis on Sunday before the Europa League leg at the Emirates Stadium but they arrived here with only two wins from their last five matches.
Torres enjoyed the biggest cheer of the afternoon and followed his brilliant finish by blowing the crowd a kiss and waving both hands. It promises to be a long farewell.
The Spaniard is unlikely to face Arsenal but Griezmann almost certainly will and his goal was his 19th in La Liga this season.
It came without his partner Diego Costa, who was still nursing a thigh strain. – AFP