in Spain and abroad this season. And its first defeat only came through an own goal after its rising talent Jorge “Koke’’ Resurreccion volleyed Diego Costa’s pass off the woodwork in an otherwise defense-dominated first half at Cornella-El Prat Stadium.
But Espanyol broke through in the 54th when Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois redirected Juan Fuente’s cross into his own net in a failed attempt to block its trajectory with his outstretched boot.
Earlier in Madrid, Angel Di Maria scored seconds after halftime with a cross intended for Ronaldo that caught Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero out of position. Madrid improved as the match went on and only Caballero stopped the hosts from recording a bigger win. Caballero made an excellent reflex save with his left foot to deny Ronaldo from close range in the 82nd and two minutes later used his right hand to parry substitute Jese Rodriguez’s low shot past his upright.
Di Maria said he wanted to see Caballero join him on Argentina’s national team as it prepares for the 2014 World Cup. “I believe Caballero deserves to go,’’ Di Maria said.
But Caballero couldn’t reach Ronaldo’s well-placed spot kick after Bale, who had gone on for the final 15 minutes, went flying to the turf following what appeared to be light contact with Malaga defender Weligton.
Ronaldo’s eighth goal of the season took him level with Messi. Both trail Atletico’s Diego Costa with 10.
“We defended well, were more aggressive and played with our lines closer together,’’ he said. “I hope to see this same intensity in the games to come,’’ said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Ancelotti said Karim Benzema would be back in his squad against Juventus after he missed Saturday’s game due to a leg knock he had picked up in training.