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Thursday 16 August 2018

Real title bid is hit by late Malaga draw

SANTI Cazorla hammered a superb last-minute freekick into the top corner to earn Malaga a surprise 1-1 draw as leaders Real Madrid saw their lead at the top of La Liga cut to eight points yesterday.

Real moved on to 71 points with 11 matches left to play but, after 11 straight victories, they saw their lead reduced as champions Barcelona beat Sevilla 2-0 in the Andalucian city on Saturday.

Karim Benzema had headed Real in front after 35 minutes but the visitors refused to crumble under some intense pressure and Spain international Cazorla grabbed a deserved equaliser in added time.

Big-spending Malaga, who were bought by a member of the Qatari royal family two years ago, are fifth with 41 points.

"We wanted to stay in the game and with only one goal against us anything was possible," Cazorla said. "I'd already gone close in the first half but at the end there it went in. A victory was vital for our objectives."

Real came out wearing shirts in support of Barcelona's Eric Abidal, who is set to have a liver transplant, and Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrest during Bolton's game at Tottenham on Saturday.

Malaga matched the hosts in a high-tempo opening until France striker Benzema arrived unmarked at the back post to nod in Cristiano Ronaldo's cross.

Jose Mourinho's men created a host of chances, La Liga top scorer Ronaldo being denied by a flying save from Willy Caballero and Benzema blazing wide from six metres out.

Cazorla was brought down on the edge of the area by Esteban Granero in the 92nd minute and the former Villarreal player left Iker Casillas with no chance.

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