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Cazorla stunner denies Real

Malaga midfielder's extra time free-kick forces La Liga toppers Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw, lead over Barcelona cut to eight points.

sports Updated: Mar 19, 2012 23:30 IST

Real Madrid's lead at the top of La Liga was cut to eight points on Sunday when a dramatic injury time goal from Santi Cazorla earned Malaga a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu.

The home side had been heading for their 12th successive win following a Karim Benzema header after 35 minutes until a Cazorla free-kick flew into the corner in the 92nd minute.

The result left Real eight points clear of Barcelona after the defending champions had beaten Malaga 2-0 on Saturday, a victory that did nothing to force Barca coach Pep Guardiola to alter his opinion that Madrid will still take the title.

Both keepers were busy in the opening exchanges with Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo forcing Willy Caballero into saves while, at the other end, Iker Casillas got down to parry a Jose Rondon strike from the edge of the area.

The home side stepped up a gear as the first half progressed with Ronaldo making powerful runs from deep and Benzema a threat in the Malaga box.

Benzema steered an effort the wrong side of the post before he opened the scoring with a header after poor defending from Malaga. Ronaldo crossed the ball from the right and the Frenchman was left unmarked to nod the ball into the net.

Malaga, who had won their last three games, came out ready to take the fight to Real after the break and brought on former Bernabeu favourite Ruud van Nistelrooy in attack.

Benzema had a wonderful opportunity to get his second but fired wide in front of goal after being found by Mesut Ozil.

It looked as though Real had the game wrapped up but Cazorla had the final say.

Soldado shines for Valencia
A hat-trick from Roberto Soldado gave Valencia a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao late on Sunday in a clinical performance which put them in a commanding position for a Champions League place.

Marcelo Bielsa's Bilbao knocked Manchester United out of the Europa League in midweek, but without injured striker Fernando Llorente they were undone by a Valencia side who are now six points clear in third place.

Levante moved up to fourth with an injury time goal from Xavi Torres giving them a 1-0 win over Villarreal who afterwards sacked coach Jose Francisco Molina after less than four months in charge.

Radamel Falcao scored a delightful chip but missed a penalty as Atletico Madrid's European ambitions suffered a blow with a 2-1 defeat away to Mallorca and they are now three points off sixth place.

First Published: Mar 19, 2012 23:27 IST