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Jose Mourinho's side saw their advantage at the top of the table reduced after Santi Cazorla's free-kick equaliser in added time renewed hopes of a Catalan comeback in La Liga

ANALYSIS
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor

It was a symbolic gesture. On a weekend in which football had taken a back seat following the shocking scenes at White Hart Lane as Bolton's Fabrice Muamba suffered a heart attack on the pitch, plus revelations on Thursday that Barcelona's Eric Abidal needs a liver transplant, Real Madrid showed a touch of real class with a T-shirt tribute to both men on Sunday night.

Madrid's players posed with messages of support on their shirts for the duo: "Get Well Soon Muamba" and "Ánimo Abidal". But unfortunately for the capital club, they were unable to replicate that class on the pitch itself and saw their 10-point lead at the top of La Liga cut to eight following Santi Cazorla's stunning free-kick equaliser in added time.

Madrid had seen Barca beat another Andalusian side, Sevilla, 2-0 on Saturday night to reduce the deficit to seven points ahead of their own match. But few expected them to have many problems against a team they had trounced 7-0 in the corresponding fixture last season.

Malaga, though, started brightly as former Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini (who still holds the record for league points won in a single season for Real, having racked up 96 in the side's second-placed finish to Barca in 2009-10) set out his team to attack with a high-tempo style which almost paid dividends as Salomon Rondon went clean through in the opening minutes, only to see his low shot saved by Iker Casillas.


Drawing applause | Before Malaga, only Barca had avoided defeat at the Bernabeu this term

Madrid huffed and puffed, eventually finding their feet and creating a number of chances before Karim Benzema nodded home a glorious Cristiano Ronaldo cross 10 minutes prior to half-time to calm the nerves of a concerned crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Benzema spurned two more wonderful opportunities to extend their lead, while Cristiano's curler was brilliantly beaten away by Willy Caballero. Madrid also saw two spot-kick shouts turned down as Ronaldo and Marcelo were denied, but although these were later described as "enormous penalties" by coach Jose Mourinho, their award would have been equally contentious.

So, unusually and uncharacteristically, Madrid were left holding on with a single-goal advantage right at the end. And they couldn't do it. Substitute Esteban Granero gave away a needless free kick outside the area and up stepped Cazorla. The Spain midfielder had earlier squared a set piece when he should have shot at goal, but there was only one thing on his mind this time as he unleashed a thunderous drive which kept rising all the way to the top corner and beat Casillas at the post he had been covering. Not that he could have done anything about it, anyway.

How La Liga's leaders look after 27 games

  P W D L Pts

Real Madrid
27 23 2 2 71

Barcelona
27 19 6 2
63

The Bernabeu was stunned, but Malaga had worked extremely hard, restricting Real to a handful of opportunities and carving out chances of their own in a dynamic display as Pellegrini proved his worth to his former employers at the time they would least have hoped he would do so.

The result brought Madrid's 11-game winning streak in La Liga to an end, too. The last time Mourinho's men had failed to claim all three points in the Primera Division was back in December when they went down 3-1 to Barcelona at the Bernabeu. And Barca were the big beneficiaries this time as well, with the Catalans now eight points adrift with 11 rounds of the championship still remaining.

It remains a significant margin and Madrid will still be confident of claiming a first title since 2007-08, but Sunday night proved the league to be far from the foregone conclusion many had expected. Madridistas will keep the faith, but their side's charity on Sunday has given Barca renewed hope. And with another Clasico clash at Camp Nou still to come next month, it's anything but over.

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