There are few visiting players to La Rosaleda who get as warm a welcome as Isco.
Born in nearby Benálmadena, the diminutive midfielder is one of their own. He left the Costa team with their blessing and is flourishing in his new surroundings and is a certainty to be starting Spain’s first group game in the World Cup this summer.
It was perhaps fate that Sunday night’s game would be his. Without Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, the midfielder took centre stage and scored the game’s opening goal.
From roughly 25-yards out Isco left Roberto with no chance as he tucked the ball into the bottom corner and he received the warm applause of the Malaga and Madrid fans alike.
The Spaniard then almost doubled his tally when he cut in from the left onto his stronger foot after a neat one-two with Marco Asensio but could only shoot wide. He then had another long-range effort but this time Roberto made a comfortable save from a volley from the edge of the box.
However, it was not all one-way traffic. Malaga had a flurry of chances towards the end of the half. Clever interplay between Federico Ricca and Diego Rolan ended with a dangerous cross across the six-yard box from the full-back which Sergio Ramos poked clear on the stretch.
The best chance of the game then fell to Manuel Iturra. He nipped in front of a careless Casemiro to put himself though on goal but the midfielder was denied by Keylor Navas’ outstretched foot.
The home side continued their hunt for a goal in the second half; manager José González made an attacking switching, replacing Mehdi Lacen with forward Alberto Bueno. Just two minutes after coming on, he got on the end of a freekick from Chory Castro but failed to get enough purchase on his header to trouble Navas.
In spite of Malaga’s new-found attacking intent, it didn’t take long for Real to double their lead. Casemiro rounded off a great team move after 63 minutes with Isco, needless to say, at the heart of it. Isco had the opportunity to grab his second goal of the game after being put through on goal by Karim Benzema but he selflessly teed up the Brazilian for a simple tap-in.
Isco then left to a standing ovation from the home crowd after being substituted after 71 minutes.
Malaga continued to push and grabbed the consolation goal that their spirited performance deserved with Rolan converting with the last kick of the game. His persistence paid off, capitalising after Jesús Vallejo miskicked Ricca’s cross from the left to smash the ball into the roof of the net on the outside of his right foot.
With the win Real Madrid leapfrog Valencia into third place, after Los Che’s defeat to Barcelona, while Malaga remain bottom, 14 points from safety.