Santi Cazorla’s stunning stoppage-time free-kick gave Malaga a deserved point to halt Real Madrid’s 11-match winning run in the Primera Division last night.
Iker Casillas and Willy Caballero made smart stops to deny Salomon Rondon and Cristiano Ronaldo within the first five minutes but after Isco had missed another good chance for the visitors it was Real who went in front as Ronaldo’s cross found Benzema free at the back post to head home.
Caballero made another brilliant save to deny Ronaldo doubling Madrid’s advantage early in the second-half, but the hosts struggled to kill the game off and that proved costly as Cazorla curled in a wonderful 25-yard free-kick into Casillas’ top corner in the 91st minute.
Real’s slip-up meant Barcelona closed the gap at the top to eight after they beat Sevilla 2-0 on Saturday night.
Barcelona’s players dedicated the victory to team-mate Eric Abidal.
The France defender is to undergo a liver transplant and players from both teams wore t-shirts in support of him before the game.
The Catalans won the match 2-0 thanks to exquisite goals from Xavi and Lionel Messi.
“This victory is for Abidal,” goalkeeper Victor Valdes said. “These are difficult times that we must overcome.
“However, with the strength and confidence that Abidal has, I’m sure that he’ll come out of this one.”
Abidal had liver surgery a year ago after being diagnosed with a tumour, but returned to the team just seven weeks later.
Defender Gerard Pique said: “We have to be by Abidal’s side and give him our love.
“We had to forget about what happened off the pitch and start the game focused. The fact that we don’t have Abidal is difficult. We’ll try to be with him but on the pitch we have to do our jobs well.
Barca’s win kept them in the hunt for the title but coach Pep Guardiola does not believe his side will catch their bitter rivals.
“In general we played a good game, especially in the first half,” he said of the win over Sevilla. “We’re pleased that we won in such a difficult stadium.
“I would have liked to compete for this league title until the end, but I don’t know if it will be possible.
“There’s another team that’s managed to earn better results than we have.”
When pressed, he added: “Forget it, we won’t win this Liga.”
In France Eden Hazard did his market value no harm with a goal and three assists in Lille’s convincing win over poor travellers Valenciennes last night.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was reportedly in the stands at the Stade Lille-Metropole.
The Barclays Premier League team have been linked with a move for Hazard – and the midfielder sparkled as Lille reclaimed third place in Ligue 1.
Hazard opened the scoring in the 18th minute and after Brou Angoua had scored an own goal, Aurelien Chedjou and Tulio de Melo completed a comfortable home win.
Meanwhile in Italy Inter Milan’s hopes of playing in Europe next season suffered a further setback as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Atalanta at the end of a week in which they were knocked out of the Champions League.
Diego Milito missed a penalty midway through the first half, but Inter never looked settled in a scrappy Serie A encounter.
Napoli came from two goals down to claim a point in a 2-2 draw with Udinese at the Stadio Friuli.
Giampiero Pinzi put the home side ahead in the 28th minute with Antonio Di Natale doubling their advantage early in the second half.
Diego Fabbrini was sent off after an hour and Udinese failed to defend their lead with 10 men as two goals from Edinson Cavani, who also missed a penalty, earned Napoli a point.
Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin was also sent off in a tense finale with the draw helping both sides move to just a point behind Lazio in the race for third place.
In Germany Bayern Munich made it 20 goals from their last three games as their 6-0 win at relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin kept the heat on Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund on Saturday night.
Arjen Robben scored a hat-trick as Bayern followed up their 7-1 win over Hoffenheim and 7-0 Champions League rout of Basle with another thumping victory.
Thomas Muller made it 1-0 in the ninth minute before Robben opened his account three minutes later and then added another from the penalty spot in the 19th minute.
Mario Gomez converted another penalty to make it 4-0 in the 50th minute before Toni Kroos struck a minute later and Robben completed his treble with another penalty midway through the second period.
The win kept Bayern five points behind Dortmund, while Hertha slipped to second bottom.
Dortmund earlier extended their unbeaten run to a Bundesliga record 20 games with a 1-0 win over Werder Bremen thanks to Shinji Kagawa’s early goal.
Borussia Monchengladbach strengthened their hold on third place with a 2-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen.
In the Netherlands AZ Alkmaar saw their lead at the top of the Eredivisie trimmed to one point after they failed to find a way past NAC Breda while closest challengers Ajax and PSV Eindhoven both won.
AZ dominated but chances for Jozy Altidore, Rasmus Elm and Brett Holman came to nought as NAC goalkeeper Jelle ten Rouwelaar kept them at bay in a goalless draw.
Ajax remain their closest pursuers thanks to a comfortable 2-0 win over 10-man ADO Den Haag.
PSV Eindhoven moved up to third with a 5-1 thumping of Heerenveen but the home side were made to work harder than perhaps the scoreline suggests, with three of their goals coming in the last 18 minutes.
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