Real Madrid falters at Malaga
Malaga, Spain (Sports Network) - Real Madrid's abysmal La Liga season continued on Saturday as the club faltered in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Malaga at La Rosaleda.
Eyebrows were raised when Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho left goalkeeping staple Iker Casillas on the bench in favor of Antonio Adan.
Casillas was helpless to watch as Malaga jumped out to the lead after a scoreless first half. Isco opened the scoring in the 49th minute when he collected a pass from Joachin at the top of the box and fired a shot back across goal.
Real Madrid leveled the score 17 minutes later, receiving a fortuitous bounce when Sergio Sanchez turned a loose ball into his own net.
It didn't take Malaga long to restore the lead as Roque Santa Cruz latched on to a centering pass at the back post and tucked the delivery home in the 71st minute.
Four minutes later, Santa Cruz struck again. The on-loan Manchester City striker got on the end of Joachin's through ball and fired a left-footed shot past Adan for his second goal of the match.
Karim Benzema brought Madrid to within one in the 82nd minute when he slotted a low shot into the back of the net, but it was not enough to spark a comeback for the visitors.
The result sees Malaga move to within two points of Real Madrid as Mourinho's side remains third in the table on 33 points, despite seven points over its last five league matches.
Barcelona 3, Valladolid 1
Valladolid, Spain - Barcelona maintained its unbeaten record in La Liga this season, defeating Valladolid 3-1 at the Jose Zorrilla on Saturday.
Xavi gave the visitors the lead in the 43rd minute before Lionel Messi doubled the advantage with his 91st goal of the calendar year. Javi Guerra pulled one back for Valladolid in the 89th minute, but Christian Tello put the result beyond any doubt with a goal four minutes into stoppage time.
Barcelona remains firmly in the driver's seat of Spain's top flight, setting the pace with 49 points on the season. Valladolid enters Spain's winter break in 11th place with 22 points.
Granada 2, Osasuna 1
Navarra, Spain - Granada overturned an early deficit to climb out of the relegation zone with a 2-1 defeat of Osasuna at El Sadar on Saturday.
Juan Francisco Martinez put the home side in front in the seventh minute of play, but Mainz struck four minutes before halftime to even it up before Daniel Gonzalez Benitez bagged the game-winner in the 48th minute.
Granada improves to 16 points, two points better than Osasuna, which slips into the drop zone.
Mallorca 2, Real Betis 1
Betis, Spain - Mallorca snapped a two-game slide to climb out of the relegation zone, earning a 2-1 defeat of Real Betis at the Benito Villamarin on Saturday.
Benat Etxebarria had put Betis in front in the fifth minute, but Victor Casadesus and Javier Moreno Marquez helped Mallorca grab the win and improve to 16 points.
Real Betis has lost two of its last three league matches to slip out of fourth place, dropping to fifth with 28 points on the season.
Real Zaragoza 2, Athletic Bilbao 0
Bilbao, Spain - Two first-half goals helped Real Zaragoza claim a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Saturday.
Apono converted a penalty kick in the 31st minute while Helder Postiga secured the win with his goal three minutes before halftime.
Zaragoza improves to 22 points to go one point clear of Bilbao, which sees its two-game winning run come to an end.